I first heard of the new band, Spirit Animal, when I looked at the concert listings at my local venues and saw their name as the main support act for established artists such as Incubus and The Struts. Naturally, I was curious to check out the band if for nothing else to see what the hype was all about. On their debut album, Born Yesterday, Spirit Animal are clearly here for good times and party vibes, while still maintaining enough composure to reflect on history as well.
Having recently signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, Spirit Animal tend to embrace the high hopes put forth by their label and delivers a product worthy of our attention. In a lot of ways, I can find similarities to Spirit Animal with the early work of their tour-mates, Incubus, with the type of “funk rock” that they portray throughout their debut. However, Spirit Animal stretch out more to create a unique enough product to stand on their own as well.
The album opener, “YEAH!” is also their first single, and brands the artist early on as a near-party band set on getting the crowd to move and enjoy themselves. Led by charismatic front-man, Steve Cooper, he plays well off the funk-bass of Paul Michel and straight-up riff rock of lead guitarist Cal Stamp. The backing beats of drummer Ronan Evron round out the band nicely, and I’m expecting big things in the future from this artist.
The second track, “Karma,” finds them experimenting with synthesizers, loud guitars and other electronic elements in their sound. The track itself slow-builds to a massive chorus where Cooper confesses, “I’m sleeping in my clothes on a mattress that I borrowed/And everyone I know is an internet model/Looking for a follow/What do you want me to say, I’m tired of making mistakes/Karma don’t forget/How long have I gotta wait to get out of the bed that I made?/Karma don’t forget.” The themes of wanting to be noticed or even accepted or prevalent throughout this LP, and it showcases an artist that wants to be taken seriously in the rock scene.
“Regular World” paints a picture of what makes someone or something “regular,” or even average. In today’s society, regular would likely be accepted far more over the strange or outlandish, and Spirit Animal make it clear that they are fed up with what is becoming our new normal. My personal favorite song, “Survival,” reminds me of the keyboard-themed rock of artists such as Walk the Moon and Imagine Dragons, while still maintaining true to their core sound.
“JFK” finds the band at their most confident as they brood with machismo with lyrics such as, “Never ever, ever gonna make me stop/Never, ever, ever won’t be on top/On the mountain, down in the canyon/I’m the golden child, the grand champion/Never, ever, ever gonna lose my will/Never, ever, ever won’t be myself/JFK,JFK.” While some may compare this confidence to bragging or not “paying their dues,” I see it more as an artist making it crystal clear that they are here to stay.
Other songs such as “Painkiller,” which embraces more of the electronic-tinged rock similar to Joywave, and “The Truth” which is more of a straight-forward rocker similar to early Hoobastank and Maroon 5, Spirit Animal maintain their pop sensibilities over guitar heavy songs. The closing one-two punch of songs, “World War IV” and “Bst Frnds” round out this great collection of songs that are slowly but surely growing on me with each repeat listen. Spirit Animal may not have reinvented the wheel of rock and roll music, but they sure do remind us why rock music can be one hell of a fun ride.