Fine Animal describes their music as “music for ice skating.” The description feels gimmicky at first, but after talking to Lucy Oaks and Kelan Gilbert in person, it becomes apparent that this mission statement of sorts is a cross section of the vision of the band and the personalities. Kelan is personable and outgoing, Lucy a bit more reserved and focused. The band has a very definite vision for what they want to sound like, yet they know how to interject a bit of whimsy within to show that they don’t take themselves too seriously.
“When It Happens (It Happens All At Once)” feels like an introduction to the band, while “Perpetually Waking Up” feels like the band’s flagship track. The former feels safe (not in a bad way) and touches briefly on many different elements of Fine Animal’s musicianship, and the latter soars in a way that’s undeniable. I couldn’t think of a better title than “Perpetually Waking Up” for the theme it conveys.
“Portal” and “Lay Awake” take the ethereal nature of the band to the extreme, scaling back on the bells and whistles and focusing mostly on Oaks’ voice. The volume seems to go up and down, but I’m not complaining. The latter track reminds me of a mellow number from Beacon, the band I saw open for Tycho this past spring. Dark, yet poetic and cathartic. “Portal” is the longest track on the album, for the most part sticking with one repetitive, hypnotic melody.
Fine Animal have found their sound, but they’re still working on being polished. This is something that will come with time. Being a DIY band that finds their home in the dream pop and chill wave genres presents its share of challenges. Being a DIY band in garage rock or punk actually adds cred to the final product, while being in a more electronic-driven band doesn’t allow for that wiggle room, which is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it forces the artist to strive for excellence, a curse because every little nuance is noticed by critics like yours truly.
Well, I’m here to tell you that Fine Animal are on to something cool. Before the Glow is a significant step in what will hopefully be a long, successful run for the band.