This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
When I’m about to set off on a road trip, I pick out music more carefully than the things I decide to pack in my suitcase. There’s some music — whether because of its lyrics, for its sound or for the feeling it evokes — that seems to make for the perfect road trip soundtrack. The right album has the ability to propel you farther down the road, or at least give you an illusion you’re making progress. Each passing sign, each yellow line in the road seems perfectly choreographed for the tune, marking a beat passed and one closer to the destination. Add a sunset melting through the windshield, a favorable breeze and a picture-perfect country — you’ll have a scene that’s made for inspirational movies.
Local psychedelic rock band Animals in Exile offers us such a road trip gem with their new album Western Gothic, which dropped November 1. The album is lyrically poignant, with a blend of grit and ease that makes it distinctly Western. Each song is a separate thought on life and death — and what it means to struggle in between — yet the album still feels inspirational, urging the listener to consider a purpose. Listening to the album makes driving forward seem like a natural step.
Animals in Exile is Redding Bacon’s project, with Redding being the primary lyricist and songwriter. For Western Gothic, he collaborated with local musicians Bob Boyer, Sean O’Neal and Colby Rogers. Western Gothic is proceeded by The Somnambulists and Through a Glass Darkly. The new album, Bacon said, is more “Western folk.” It also contains more flamenco chord progressions and reverb, adding the psychedelic element Bacon was after.
“We wanted a more thematic album,” Bacon said of the album’s existential theme, one he says includes topics such as death, decay and a harsh environment. “There’s not really a genre called “Western Gothic.”
The album opens with the track “Side Eyes,” an instrumental tone-setter. Next on the album is “Misery,” which is as beautiful as it is bleak with the broken-dream call to “cheer me into suffering,” and a political commentary that includes the lyric “they bury their children for the man.” The rest of the album is a smooth narrative, each song a separate statement but ones that work well as a whole. The ending two tracks “Westward Bound” and “Butterfly” are introspective and philosophical, but also the perfect ending note for an album that is dark but also looks to the future.
Fans of garage rock, psychedelic music and good writing will appreciate Animals in Exile and the story that was achieved in Western Gothic. Between the garage music tones, the bluesy-country twang similar to that of Son Volt and a psychedelic rock statement, there’s something for all types of dreamers in this album. It might be a good idea to keep this album queued up on the playlist for your next adventure.