Graded on a Curve: Animal Daydream,
“Easy Pleasures” EP

The duo Animal Daydream hail from Gothenburg Sweden and their “Easy Pleasures” EP connects a bit like a hypothetical Teenage Fanclub that’s more smitten with the machinations of Mick Fleetwood than the artistry of Alex Chilton. It’s a nice ride, and those desiring the vinyl should act fast, for only 300 7-inch platters in a striking photo collage sleeve have been pressed up for consumption by Jigsaw Records of Seattle, WA.

It’s easy to succumb to the faulty notion of the USA and the United Kingdom having the market cornered on the architecture of primo contemporary guitar pop. Happily, proof does occasionally appear to reinforce string driven melodiousness as a global impulse, and “Easy Pleasures,” the first effort from Animal Daydream adds to this sum with panache.

Consisting of Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Alexander Wahl, Animal Daydream has cultivated a fully-developed band-oriented sound that’s quite impressive. In fact, upon giving these songs a blind listen this writer mistakenly assumed the gist, vibrant, layered, and even lush, derived from the input of three or more participants.

Append confidence and intelligence to Animal Daydream’s list of traits. Specifically, debuting with an EP is a canny choice to say the least; the immersive tunes of “Easy Pleasures” concisely stir the listener’s appetites without sating them and simultaneously provide ample evidence of range, songwriting ability, and overall execution.

The 7-inch comes courtesy of Seattle, WA’s Jigsaw Records, an endeavor spanning all the way back to 1995, smack dab in the middle of the whole indie hullaballoo. Initially prolific, by the turn of the millennium the imprint had basically ceased operations, though a few items did trickle out across the ‘00s. But earlier this decade saw a significant increase in activity both as a label and a mail-order; “Easy Pleasures” is marked as PZL065, Jigsaw’s first of 2015.

It can be stated with conviction and without hesitation that Brandt and Wahl are far from garden variety guitar pop specialists, their dedication attractively sidestepping any dalliances with the generic. And on perusal, Jigsaw’s mention of Teenage Fanclub is right on the money, as is an additional pointer to ‘70s soft rock via the citation of Fleetwood Mac.

The title track even shrewdly references the Buck-Nicks incarnation of that persevering group, but after consideration a casual promotional nod to a prior Mac lineup registers as just as fitting; precisely, the inference was to Bare Trees, an enduringly if modestly appealing transitional affair that surfaced to moderate sales figures (it did eventually go platinum) on Warner-Reprise in 1972.

Traces of Peter Green’s blues template are almost totally absent and Jeremy Spencer’s mania is nowhere to be found, elements replaced on Bare Trees by embryonic soft rock threads tucked amongst smidges of heavy amp spillage, a dab of flute trilling, some cowbell whacking, a dash of overloaded wah-wah, sustained moments of gliding instrumentalism, a generous amount of modest grooving, a spoken word piece as British as a crumpet, a pair of showcases for Christine McVie (“Spare Me a Little of Your Love” particularly terrific), and the exquisite original recording of Bob Welch’s “Sentimental Lady.”

Did somebody say soft rock? But I digress. Really, the main reason a connection between Animal Daydream and Bare Trees-era Mac feels so appropriate directly relates to a shared tendency for mild psych amidst the pop motions. Along with migrating away from the Green/Spencer precedent, by ’72 Fleetwood Mac had lost much of the ambiance tying them to the great stylistic upheavals of late-‘60s, but they hadn’t yet shed that skin completely; the touches lingering on Bare Trees are akin to the what’s included on “Easy Pleasures.”

Concerned with mood rather than overt drugged-out gestures (as said, mild), Animal Daydream’s psych inclinations are tastefully devoid of gratuitousness. Opener “Canyon Rose” unfolds with a bell-like guitar line, crisp drumming, tidbits of subtle percussion, and waves of keyboard residue, the entirety spiked with vocal harmonies unmistakably suggesting the Mac but not becoming overbearing about it.

Plus, tasty tendrils of electronics near the end highlight a relationship to the ‘70s that’s not explicitly tied up in the soft rock shebang. It’s followed by “Glass Ships,” a number adeptly combining strumming acoustic with electric accenting as borderline joyous voice-gush arises in the choruses. The keyboards prove again crucial and are especially prominent during the latter section. Extra credit is given for some brief, nicely restrained underwater vocal action.

It’s the title cut that’s the standout, a guitar pop fiesta with a scientific approach to uptempo swagger, the chiming strings achieving a solid balance of beauty and assertiveness as the singing mingles aspects of indie and sunshine pop. And most importantly, the rhythmic attack is lively and essentially-metronomic in how it keeps everything on course.

The tactic helps the song’s four minutes feel much shorter. Closer “I Knew You Would Come Along Before Fall” features Nicklas Barker’s guest mellotron, a contribution bringing Animal Daydream into contact with ‘60s-derived orchestral-pop, though the harmony and guitar help the tune to remain well-situated with the selections that precede it.

Range is certainly a necessary factor here, but more so is a lack of triteness. Soft rock may be in the picture, but there’s nary a yachter’s cap to be found atop Brandt’s or Wahl’s noggins, and the happiness produced by this circumstance shouldn’t be understated. Not to belabor a comparison, but this non-hackneyed scenario easily extends to those aforementioned Fleetwoodian qualities; “Easy Pleasures” ranks as the most enjoyable Mac-descended surprise to meet these ears since The Essex Green’s The Long Goodbye.

As said, Animal Daydream has brevity on their side, and if the title track is the highpoint nothing here qualifies as lesser. And while there’s definitely room for growth, based on what’s offered throughout Easy Pleasures the sound is sturdy and broad enough to allow the pair to further hone this territory on at least one potential full-length.

So here’s hoping. As it stands at this moment however, Easy Pleasures is an inaugural release of immediate and longer-term benefits; succinctly, it’s a grabber and a grower. This means it’s going to be a hard act to follow.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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