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Animal Sounds teases new album with the dark single ‘RED’ 

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I wasn’t prepared for Animal Sounds’ latest single, “RED.” The Rochester indie rock band had solidified its mercurial sound — groove-fueled 2000s rock à la Incubus with splashes of classic ’70s rock and even emo — on the 2018 full-length album “Ennui” and the “Layers” EP in 2020.

And while those elements are still there, “RED” dials down the laid-back, blissful vibes in the music, particularly in Erik Gordon’s smooth tenor vocals, and instead turns up the tension in unexpected and delightful ways.

“RED” was released on Oct. 28, just before Halloween, as the first single from Animal Sounds’ forthcoming album “Labyrinth.” Fittingly, it’s a song about the inevitable reality of death — without mentioning it by name — and the sinking feeling that accompanies it:

Realization starts sinking in/ Not a matter of a crown or sin/ But a curse that you've been written in/ From the moment you began.

The band cleverly leads with an anthemic refrain, which benefits from a grimy  guitar hook, and expressive, high-range vocals over a straightforward pop groove that recall post-hiatus Fall Out Boy. As bonus ear candy, the outro features harmonizing guitars with a glam rock-metal sound worthy of Queen’s Brian May.

But perhaps what’s most clever about “RED” is its compositional sleight-of-hand, the way in which the band makes the conventional pop music structure of verse-chorus, verse-chorus-bridge disappear.

Shawn Brogan and Alex Brophy’s riff-happy electric guitars are ever-present fixtures, but there’s a sinister element to the chord progression. This series of chords continues throughout the song, although varied guitar timbres and alternating instrumental melodies that outline those chords give the illusion that the band is constantly shifting into fundamentally different musical ideas.

In reality, it’s just one idea with several variations, seemingly distinctive elements that suggest we’re heading in a different direction this time. But it’s nothing new, and the destination is the same as ever. And now I’m not just talking about the music.

If “RED” is the sampler to Animal Sounds’ next main course, I can’t wait to dig in.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at
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