The Animation is an indie/alternative four piece hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, that formed in September of 2006. Their full-length debut album, entitled “Dance Into The Unknown”, was released primarily in western Europe in early 2012 and comes in at 51:54. The band consists of Johan Hasselblom at the helm on guitar and lead vocals, Robert Carlsson on bass, and Andre and Johannes Bramwall; cousins that play keyboards and drums, respectively. It only takes a little digging to find that The Animation does have a significant internet presence, given their modest popularity. Their main website is under a Swedish domain and they are well represented on Facebook, Soundcloud, and have managed to pick up a few listeners on last.fm. They even have a “making of the album” video posted on YouTube. Those in the States who actually like to purchase physical copies of albums will certainly have the inconvenience of ordering from overseas on European websites.
The overall quality of musicianship and effort that went into making “Dance Into The Unknown” is apparent. Their producer, Henrik Edenhead, is very accomplished in his own right; having worked with icons like Iggy Pop. “Dance Into The Unknown” sounds massive. Drenched in reverb, layered with subtle instrumentation, and full of uplifting, airy, and grandiose choruses, it is clear that this band had more than a few late nights going through this album over and over again until it was as polished as the diamonds in a Kaye jewelry commercial. These guys know what they are doing. They may not showcase the best chops instrument-wise, but they have a solid grip on how to play the particular style they have settled into. Lead guitarist and vocalist Johan Hasselblom prefers the slappy, effects driven, U2-like guitar lines that make rhythm sections sound all-encompassing and give songs a steady heartbeat (see track 2: Lights Overseas). The third track, “Won’t Back Down”, has this beautiful, melodic, tremolo guitar melody that flutters in the back of the mix during the verse section, dancing in an enveloping wall of sound created by perfectly compressed reverb drums and one of the most angelic sounding organs I’ve heard in a long time. The tenth track, “Fly Away”, demonstrates some of The Animation’s key songwriting motifs. At times, their lyrics are esoterically whimsical (“If I could fly away, I could touch the stars on the milky way”), while at others they can be quite down to earth with a keen since of melancholy. Another important note on this song is the guitar solo. It is the only song on the album with a concrete guitar solo. Again, it really doesn’t show any technical prowess, but what it does demonstrate is a very well constructed musical idea, a key trademark of a good guitar player. Not one note is wasted, every part of that solo was well thought out. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good guitar solo, but the simplistic elegance of the one in “Fly Away” makes it one of my favorite songs. What really sells this album, however, is probably the voice of front man Johan Hasselblom. The man is indisputably talented, and has substantial vocal chops. His voice can be very warm and mellow, quite similar to Benjamin Bridwell from Band of Horses, (a band that also favors generous reverb, fluttering guitars, and esoteric lyrical themes.) Yet most of the time, Hasselblom’s voice is powerfully soaring over a giant sonic landscape during the album’s choruses and expansive verses.
Label: Spectra Records
Genre: Alternative/Indie Rock
The Animation was going for a very uniform, specific sound. However, endless belting vocals enveloped around massive amounts of reverb gets tiring after a while, and that’s what about 75% of this album is. Granted it sounds spectacular and euphoric most of the time, but sometimes there is just too much going on. Its too big, gets really confusing sounding, and things get lost in a giant whirlwind of titanic instrumentation. It’s like that opening scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s house is taken up in the air by the twister, and everything is just sort of blowing around in aimless chaos. That’s why I liked the twelfth track “Everest” so much. The last track of the album they finally gave the reverb massiveness thing a break and just let Hasselblom sing and play strait-up for a while. The other thing about this band is there marketability: their songs are too long for radio and still too indie for mainstream tastes.
This band put a spectacular effort into their debut album. Taking the initiative to land an experienced producer also shows that they wanted to do their first one the right way. Like it or not, this kind of music is getting more and more prominent in mainstream culture as respected labels like Sub-Pop are starting to sign acts like Band of Horses. Commercial value will only likely improve.
Final Rating: 5/3/5 Stars