In all likelihood, you have not heard of Animal Years. They’re not the secret, “cool” band your hipster friend plays on his iPod or the new music discovery your mainstreamy girlfriend swears by. But they are simmering below the surface – and with “Sun Will Rise,” are sure to become both.
“Sun Will Rise” is the debut rock-pop album from four best friends who ditched the standard 9-5 to pursue a dream. The group had been playing covers and pop-up gigs on-and-off for years, but only recently gave into a cohesive, branded future together. “We all realized that at the end of the day, we had absolutely no intention of doing anything else,” says Anthony Saladino, bassist, “We all moved out here and just decided to jump in.”
Vocalist Mike McFadden, a Baltimore native with a Coca-Cola commercial feature and local radio play under his belt, leads Animal Years with gritty, folksy vocals and lyrics of heartbreak and rebirth. Think homegrown Lumineers vibe meets the instrumental drive of a more energetic band like My Morning Jacket. “Meet Me,” the opening track, sums up the group’s sound and style to-the-tee. The song rips through you, like a background track to the cathartic climax of some addicting indie love story. It’s the song you’d crank up for a purging, post-breakup cry (I’m a girl. I can shamelessly write such things), as are follow-ups like “Worried Mind” and “Poor Boy”.
“Let Go of Your Head” is another standout, an ode to Mike’s musical journey. “The song really answers the question of our band name. ‘Think in animal years’ – like you’ve got 15 to live and have to make the best of things. Just let go of the fear and go for it,” McFadden explains. This is the triumphant, belted masterpiece you’ll play on a long drive with friends, all singing along (though struggling to nail the high notes Mike rides so effortlessly). Song like “Rapture” and “Sun Will Rise” give a more country vibe, exuding Americana and optimism in both lyric and feel. The latter, I should mention, drops a guitar riff motif that will play in your head for days. Ala Mumford and Sons, all three tracks are accessible enough for the chick who likes whatever’s in The Top Ten, but artful enough for the pickiest of listeners. Even more, the members seem super accessible. While interviewing Mike (soft-spoken in a flannel with a 32 ounce beer) and Anthony (part-time comedian and writer with a non-annoying-though-mildly-infectious-laugh) it was so obvious that these are just good guys who want to be happy and play music day in and day out. And you notice that Mike, who wrote each song and decides the group’s sound and content, is fully supported by the three dudes who gave up a status-quo-lifestyle for his product. “I think Mike’s super talented,” Anthony praised after visiting one of Mike’s rapid-fire writing sessions, “writing music is the thing that truly does come naturally to him. And it’s awesome he’s figured that out.”
Animal Years has mastered the emotionality of music, the formula for pulling and tugging on your heart. But Mike’s voice, so raw and beckoning, makes me think there was never a “formula” at all – just the desire to play what one feels, say one what needs. That desire, now translated, strikes gold on “Sun Will Rise.”
For now, listen to “Meet Me” on Spotify or head to their show on the 17th at Sullivan Hall, 8PM. Pick up the album on September 17 and for full deets on upcoming shows and music stop by animalyearsmusic.com. Do it,