[SLICK SYNTH-POP] O come, all ye corporate America heatseekers, I have the perfect 30-second snippet for your next iPad/Target/Electric car ad. “Lift Me Up,” the opening track from Vanimal’s debut EP, has one foot in a Starbucks and the other taking a hoist from Starfucker. The Portland quintet’s cut is the sort of layered-but-digestible revisionist disco that captures the public imagination in short order. And while it lacks the lyrical depth of your average LCD Soundsystem cut, it certainly takes notes on that fine band’s most agreeable sci-fi/8-bit/dancefloor tendencies.
The trouble starts on track two, when “Moth Light” reminds too much and too early of the aforementioned opening track. For all the fine sonic hallmarks Vanimal picks up from Kraftwerk and Gary Numan—simple synth hooks, dry vocal delivery and a slightly spooky lyrical futurism—this sonic hegemony is troublingly familiar, too. But “Deep Deep,” with its Stevie Wonder-style funky keyboard intro and its balance of minimalism and chaos, snaps things right back into order. The sleazy “Dying Flower” is a sturdy banger that’s just hammy enough and likely altogether more lovable in concert; faux-closer “Receiver” is marred by slight overacting in the singing department, but survives the offense thanks to its warm, soaring electronic instrumentation.
Just when you think Vanimal’s skills would be better suited to Ibiza than Portland, it drops an overdriven “hidden track” (!) that sounds like actual rock and roll—albeit rock delivered via Sega Genesis soundcard. The track has a wild streak that Vanimal would do well to embrace in future efforts. This band is catchy, smart and well-recorded—it just needs to get its hands a little dirty.
SEE IT: Vanimal plays Mississippi Studios on Wednesday, Aug. 31, with Serious Business and A Gentlemen’s Picnic. 9 pm. Free. 21+.