Living in Oklahoma isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of “cool.” Some might argue that mixing bass clarinet or bassoon with indie rock isn’t either. Other Lives proves precisely the contrary with its sophomore release, Tamer Animals.
Based out of Stillwater, Okla., Other Lives uses an eclectic mix of instruments and draws on different genres throughout the album. But its five members don’t give the impression that they’re being overambitious or spreading themselves too thin. Instead, the product of their stylistic innovation is an album that’s highly accessible and easy to loop for hours on end.
The opening track, “Dark Horse,” is graceful and sweeping, introducing an orchestra of woodwinds and brass that complement lead singer Jesse Tabish’s airy vocals. “For 12” and “Old Statues” feature rhythms and guitar melodies that would be right at home on a Western soundtrack. Others, like “Weather” and “Landforms,” have compatible form and function, evoking vivid images of approaching storms or spacious plains.
DIVE VERDICT: 3.5 OF 5 STARS
The use of harmonious vocal layering and folk tendencies often lead Other Lives to be compared fairly accurately to groups like Fleet Foxes. Repetitive and poignant choruses on some songs, including the title track, are unmistakably reminiscent of The National.
Regarding Other Lives as mere shadows of these artists would oversimplify the group’s stylistic and creative range. Tamer Animals could have been too experimental — it could have been unsuccessful. But the group’s eye for detail and ear for dynamic phrasing make these 11 tracks seamless and congruent, making its risks worthwhile.