Review: Aminal House - Recess Monkey

AminalHouse.jpgIf you weren't convinced by the cover that Aminal House (yes, that's spelled correctly) had some Beatles influences, the liner notes, which thank, among others, Billy Shears, would seal the deal.

So what about the album itself -- is it worthy of such blatant Beatles homages?

Well, yes.

Aminal House (late 2006) is the second album from Seattle-based band Recess Monkey and whereas The Sippy Cups sort of tap the psychedelic part of '60s and '70s rock for their sound, Recess Monkey sticks more closely to the Beatles for their sound and inspiration. Which isn't to say that they sound like the Beatles -- they often sound more like Beatles-inspired bands such as Crowded House. At they very least, they, like the Beatles, are willing to explore a wide range of rock sounds, from the funk of the opening, title track to the singalong chorus of "Aquarium" to the Elton John-like piano ballad "Grey Zebra." (They're fine with more direct homages, too, pulling out a very "Blackbird"-like acoustic guitar figure for "Butterfly," for example.) One of my favorite tracks is "Cookie," a '60s rocker with a hint of Motown about a very nervous pointer dog ("Cookie don't crumble now / Cookie don't fall apart"). Musically, the group is tight; singer Drew Holloway uses the occasional falsetto to good effect, too.

Thematically, the songs are all animal-related, treating animals as characters with personality. The album also has a few sketches which are mostly amusing and very reminiscent in spirit (and somewhat in vocal characterizations) of SteveSongs' Marevlous Day! album. (And, hey, it's not every day you listen to a kids' album that makes a John Vanderslice reference, and a funny one at that.) At 54 minutes in length, it runs on a bit too long, but at least they're experimenting to the end.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9, which isn't surprising since the album includes kids voices on some tracks and their ideas from a summer camp led by the band in summer 2006. You can hear the album's first five tracks here and purchase the album here.

Aminal House is an album that must have been a blast to make, chock-full of creativity. The album is never less than interesting, and always a melodious spin. Definitely recommended.

(More details on the process of recording the album can be found here.)