Chicago-based rock ’n roll group Post Animal have been kicking around for years, but it wasn’t until 2016 when they fully came together as a band and began touring, boasting the presence of Stranger Things actor Joe Keery among their ranks, no doubt helping raise their profile. They built up hype with 2015’s debut EP Performs the Most Curious Water Activities, as well as a series of singles the following year, including the wonderful “When I Get Home”, a funky and seductive number that takes from Tame Impala in all the right ways. And this 4/20, they grace us with their debut full-length, the curiously titled When I Think Of You In A Castle.
Listening to this album, it was honestly a surprise to find that these guys weren’t from Australia. The sound they display throughout the record owes much to that of Down Under psych staples Tame Impala and King Gizzard and their respective influences, with touches of Ty Segall’s fuzz-rock and Mild High Club’s supremely relaxed hypnagogic pop. The problem is, many of these songs tread just a little too closely to their counterparts, leading the album to feel like a mere conglomeration of those influences, rather than a synthesis. The first ‘proper song’, “Gelatin Mode” is fine, crashing in after the sleepy opener with thumping, propulsive drums and energetic, driving garage rock guitars. It ebbs and flows where it should, culminating in a heavy, slow outro that goes on a little too long, but still leaves the song enjoyable overall. And the band use a similar formula for the other five-plus minute epic, “Heart Made of Metal” – this one is a little more measured, with not as dramatic rises and falls, but what sets it apart is its outro – here, following a pause, the song takes a complete turn from its sunny disposition with a sinister and menacing guitar riff, making for a chaotic end to the song with ominous chanted vocals. And to bring up King Gizzard again, the album’s penultimate song “Dirtpicker” sounds exactly like a long-lost outtake from that group’s I’m In Your Mind Fuzz LP (2014), heavily resembling its “Mind Fuzz” suite with its steady, propulsive drum rhythms and one-note bass pulse, with even the vocals bearing more than a passing resemblance to that band.
The album starts off promisingly, though, with what may well be one of its best cuts. “Everywhere All At Once” is a dreamy and lightly mysterious instrumental, the gentle acoustic guitars meshing well with the watery keyboards over the sound of rain, evoking some kind of mysterious, far-off island covered by mist, with the castle that’s mentioned in the album’s title. The setting is returned to later on with more lucidity on “Castle”, the mid-point break of the album that comes with relaxing hypnagogic keyboards and guitar bends, given a spacey feel with its brief verse and extended instrumental. It is perhaps the sweetest that this album gets. And the other slow, gentler song, “One Thing”, is the gloomiest on the record – the same tangy, hypnagogic keyboards here evoke a feeling of melancholy and hurt, with some sour chords adding to the song’s rainy atmosphere.
Sadly, it’s some of the songs in between the harder-edged and the gentler songs that make for some of the least interesting material on here. There are some that go for a more straightforward, pop approach, such as the oddly titled “Tire Eyes” which has little going for it other than the catchy, frantic triplets leading into the verses. Or “Special Moment”, which was picked as one of the album’s singles for obvious reason – it is maybe the most straightforwardly danceable and poppy song of the bunch. However, there’s something about the song that leaves a sour taste, whether it be the odd intervals in the verses, or the awkward falsetto – it just doesn’t come off at all. “Ralphie” at least has a curious resemblance to Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years” in the way it hits the ground running, as well as with its skipping rhythm and speedy guitar soloing. “Victory Lap-Danger Zone” is one of the slowest and heaviest numbers, adopting a slight stoner rock influence, before fading out with a sunny and optimistic coda. However, it is the album’s closer “Susie” that makes a late claim for best song on the record. Breaking away from the record’s core influences, the song looks more to the tropes of 70s pop rock, with a funky, Beatles-esque sound. What sets it apart from the rest of the album is just how fun and easygoing it is, so much so that it almost highlights how rigid and formulaic some other parts of the album are, capping it off with an exceptionally jaunty electric piano solo.
With their debut LP, Post Animal have crafted a pleasant and accomplished psychedelic rock effort, but one that shows they still have some way to go in finding a distinct identity and a unique sound. While the songs are for the most part enjoyable, one often can’t escape the feeling that these same ideas have already been done by other bands – and better. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with repeating ideas, but for now it just doesn’t seem like the band have much personality to back it up. Still, as a light and summery psych rock record, this one gets by just fine. It will be interesting to see where they go from here and how they will develop their sound.