Call It Arson - The Animal Strings Album
Released October 31st, 2006
Kill Normal Records
“If I’m not wanted/Then I’d rather not be here/If my presence is an issue/Then I’d rather just steer clear”
It’s in these self-conscious moments in which The Animal Strings Album strikes the deepest. Such an affect does not simply come from the first release from a band that formed last year, however. Quite the opposite; Call It Arson was first conceived in a Connecticut basement with two friends, Ryan White and James Downes, 11 years-old at the time. Thirteen years later, the band is two members larger and four releases ahead of where they started. Their newest release brings to mind themes of belonging and searching for a place to call “home”, a concept that the band's sound harbors from the start.
Beneath the smooth progression through the album and the turbulent, rolling undercurrent of instrumentation is where the album’s true shine sees the light of day. Songs alternate effortlessly from bare-boned acoustic pieces (“Eliza”, “Hoopin’ and Humpin”) and buoyant, full-band tracks (“The Unmanageable Superstate”, “On the Run”). The latter is at its best when the guitars chafe and scatter into a collage of tactful bass slides and Ryan White’s confident vocals on the title track “Animal Strings”, acting as almost a tide of tempos waning back to sea with acoustic bridges and surging back to land with passionate breakdowns. There are moments, speaking on altering tempos, where White and guitarist James Downes harmonize among sparse instrumentation (“Places”) creating a completely naked despondence set-in-sound. They don’t pull it off as well as Colorado’s Laymen Terms, specifically in Verity’s Novel, but it’s a deep, rewarding contrast to some of the more rock-oriented such as “On the Run”’s surf-rock vibe.
Call It Arson recorded The Animal Strings Album live without any pro-tools, time correct, or auto tune, capturing sweat and tears instead of the nuts and bolts of the studio board. The space left without any professional production really adds a rustic feel; keeping standout tracks like “Unmanageable Superstate” from being too dolled up and more down to earth. Nothing is sacrificed by going this route at all, and listeners even get a dose of what the band would sound like live, as each instrument was tracked in the same room and is devoid of inordinate production interruption.
As exemplified in the closing acoustic jangle “Hoopin’ and Humpin”, singer Ryan White is all but satisfied, possibly even confused, with where he calls home. But with the collective known as Call It Arson, he’s a part of something that is right where it should be. The Animal Strings Album is firm-rooted in ‘90s emo culture, similarities to Death Cab for Cutie and Sunny Day Real Estate come to mind, harvesting on truly progressive notions of where the genre should go from here.