On their 2018 debut album When I Think Of You In A Castle, Chicago-based outfit Post Animal displayed the sort of appealing scrappiness that marked them out as a band to keep an eye on, one that could do great things once they’d figured themselves out. That record was full of potential, the sextet surely capable of blossoming into the ideal versions of themselves as artists and musicians. Its richly layered compositions were the work of a band who hadn’t shown their hand quite yet, and a surprisingly short turnaround of less than two years later, they’re ready to return to the fray with Forward Motion Godyssey.
In that interim period, the band have lost a member (namely co-founder and guitarist Joe Keery, now well-known as a key part of horror/science fiction Netflix series Stranger Things, though he remains an unofficial collaborator) and are now a five-piece with all involved taking turns on vocals: Jake Hirschland, Javi Reyes and Matt Williams provide the band with a three-guitar attack (Hirschland doubling on keyboards), with Dalton Allison on bass and Wesley Toledo on drums completing the lineup. The sound they create together is as big and multifaceted as you’d expect, but their second album finds them blowing it up and pushing it as far as possible in all available directions, making their self-produced debut seem almost quaint by comparison.
Its 11 tracks draw from a pool of disparate influences, among them progressive rock and metal, R&B, electronica, shoegaze and pure pop, blending them together as the record careens wildly from one point of reference to the next. The songs are tied together by sets of introspective and probing lyrics: ‘Schedule’ tackles maintaining communication in relationships while both parties lead busy and seemingly incompatible lives, while the haunting mini-epic ‘Fitness’ wonders how to go on when touched by loss, pinballing between brooding verses and outbursts of technicolour melody. ‘In A Paradise’ tips its hat to stoner rock, complete with an impressively heavy instrumental break that might prompt the listener to check if they’re still listening to the same band.
Double-take moments like that are all over the album, as the path charted throughout is rarely straightforward. ‘Safe Or Not’ pairs an infectious disco strut with lyrics about feeling unable to express oneself, while the eponymous ‘Post Animal’ appropriately feels like the closest possible thing to a summary of where the band’s heads are at in terms of making music in 2020, a riff-driven barnstormer that nonetheless leans into the band’s prog tendencies for long enough to take some detours. That willingness to experiment means that your chances of having the whole record click on first listen are quite slim - there’s rather a lot to take in, whether that’s on the sun-kissed cinematic opener ‘Your Life Away’ or the sprawling reach of ‘How Do You Feel’, the latter arguably the most dramatic offering on a record that’s full of them.
Strikingly immediate in some places and more reserved in others, the album’s scope is its biggest draw, showing off a band who live for the thrill of taking risks and hoping they pay off. Post Animal aren’t especially interested in boxing themselves in, and their occasionally bonkers and frequently brilliant second album proves that they’ve got enough momentum going to pull off even wilder genre experiments in the future. It practically demands you listen to it front to back, and that’s how it’s best experienced. Full of surprises, Forward Motion Godyssey proves that pinning this band down is a fool’s errand. That forward motion could take them anywhere from here.