The Ostrich or the Lark
Tallest Trees has been called Nashville’s Animal Collective. That’s unfortunate.
The band that became Tallest Trees solidified when beloved Nashville rock group, Tommy and the Whale, started to unravel. Thomas Samuel was the bassist in T&W, and Dabney Morris was the drummer. They both had side projects – Samuel’s Tallest Trees and Morris’ Human Voice (they’re website is www.humantrees.com, FYI) – and joined forces under the TT moniker. They got into Roland SP-505 samplers and probably holed up and listened to a bunch of Animal Collective. Though these speculative details aren’t really important.
The Ostrich or the Lark has all the trademarks of the of-the-moment indie-electronic rock: filtered and warped drum samples, oscillating synths, heavily treated vocals, found-object spoken word loops and folky acoustic guitars. One song (“Alouette!”) even completely lifts that bro-y “whoo” hook from AnCo’s “My Girls.” Samuel’s singing style is more reminiscent of Ben Gibbard than Panda Bear, though, and certain songs on the album (“Our Hands,” especially) completely smack of Gibbard’s Postal Service side project.
Lyrically it’s a lot more varied and dense than other indie fare. Tallest Trees do share something in common with the best of those bands (Yeasayer, for example) in taking a page out of the David Byrne lyric book. There’s a preoccupation with childhood, naivety and family. “Lonely mother can’t contain her son,” Samuels sings in “Learn.”
Halfway through “Learn,” as the song builds, Tallest Trees start to sound a little like those rock bands they got bored with. Melodically, the song is a lot like Nashville indie pop, albeit over a bed of glistening electronics and looping rhythms. It’s a sign that Tallest Trees hasn’t quite developed the sophistication and complexity that’s made Animal Collective so convincing. In the end, there’s still a hint that The Ostrich or the Lark may just be indie rock dressed up in electronics, created by a couple of super-talented dudes. Still, it’s definitely some of the most promising stuff to come out of the Nashville music scene. And, considering the U-turn from Tommy and the Whale, their next record may just be the one to completely nail the sound they’re only starting to reveal here.