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Listening to Alligator Indian‘s new EP, More Songs About Animals and TV, gives me the same feeling as the one I get listening to Laurie Anderson. When I was a teenager, I found a CD of hers in my room. To this day I have no idea how it got there—my parents and my brother didn’t know where it came from either. It was as if the music fairy had flown in at night and left it in my room to broaden my horizons. The first few times I tried to listen to the CD, I didn’t like it. Her voice sounded goofy, like she was trying too hard, being too deliberate. Her studied, cerebral melodies didn’t immediately hit my pop pleasure center in a way I was familiar with. But the more I listened to her, the more I realized that my own prejudices were getting in the way of something more substantial than I had recognized.
What made Laurie Anderson a challenging listen for me was that she refuses to employ the easy trick of playing it cool in a detached manner. Alligator Indian’s Christian Church and Spooky Bubble strike me as her brethren. Musicians of this kind can put their egos aside and show you who they are without glossing themselves over with a trendy persona. They give themselves over to you instead of cloaking themselves in faux-apathy. Rather than try to be popular or impressive, they try to be honest and to invite you to engage with them.
The style these days is to be removed when you sing, like your voice is an instrument among many, and I’m as guilty as any when it comes to perpetuating this trend. But when I hear songs like these, I begin to doubt my obsession with holding back. Why can’t people sing this way, too? There is something refreshing about hearing people sing like they mean it. Like Laurie Anderson, Alligator Indian is not trying to sound cool. Rather, they are trying to sound as strange and passionate as they really are, with no hazy, romantic Instagram filter.
Style aside, their pop craftsmanship here is undeniable. Their songwriting choices are invariably complex, and they avoid falling into familiar pop tropes while still creating the sense of energy and pleasure characteristic of great pop music. The mood of More Songs About Animals and TV is as spooky and fun as the Halloween aisles springing up at grocery stores and pharmacies this time of year. The album is strewn with ritualistic bellows and chants but, with jokey titles like “Corpsing” and “Later, Data Dog,” doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Corpsing” sprints bombastically, as if Christian Church and Spooky Bubbles were playing a game of chase with each other. “Later, Data Dog,” a mellow and atmospheric closer, bleeps and bloops like a charming early video game and contains the endearingly nerdy line, “Speak to me in binary.”
"You guys have an amazingly beautiful and bizarre sound," wrote a commenter called Mowri on the Soundcloud for the Alligator Indian song "Corpsing." It's an apt summation for the twitchy-ethereal other-worldly sonic scapes that the local surreal-pop band crafts. Electronics and vocals leap and swoop interchangeably, sometimes with aching beauty, sometimes as discordant as one red sock in a washer full of whites. That track appears on the band's new EP, More Songs About Animals and TV, just released today.
"Revar Yu Droem" starts off with children's voices and then drone (either vocal or instrumental) and the lush, resonant voice of Spooky Bubble. Christian Church provides (vocally), the baritone Gregorian monk to her rounded and soaring Agnes of God. The song nods to Enigma without being '90s-retro. Instead, it's heavy and gorgeous and weird and makes you want to dance all Thom Yorke-like.
"PUF//FIN" is more '80s in origin — just in its dark and sparkly new wave-ness. But, with its dance beats and layered vocals, its reverb and static, the song is more futuristic than reminiscent. It's a solidly-cool pop offering. Though pop rarely dares to look into the abyss, whereas this song pretty much moves into said abyss and starts hanging up posters.
"Later, Data Dog" creeps and slinks on ascending and descending scales. It's not the sort of song you can cozy up with, but it's endlessly interesting. Prickly, icy, atonal, meditative but unsettling, eerily appealing. The percussion pops and crackles beneath Spooky Bubble's smooth voice, a vocal that never loses its polish yet never cares about being the prettiest thing in the room. Which, of course, makes it the prettiest thing in the room.- Alli Marshall
Coalescing on the citrus-encrusted concrete of Central Florida, Alligator Indian’s shift in style has continually coincided with founders Christian Church and Spooky Bubble’s relocations. Arriving in Orlando after a life in the sleepy beach town of Melbourne, the pair began collaborating while studying classical voice and soon saw themselves combining sugary pop with sound collage. Upon graduation, they journeyed north, settling into a bedbug-infested brownstone in Brooklyn. The very chaos that eventually drove them away from the city first compelled them to find new purpose in their art, and it was in their high-topped hovel that they began capturing their surreal pop and releasing it to the public. Though invigorated by its bustle, the pace of life in New York left the group fatigued and feeling unfulfilled in their urge to be part of a community of artists starting from the ground up. Idyllic visions of the mountains of North Carolina in their heads, Spooky and Christian went south to the solace of Asheville. With a new sense of purpose, Alligator Indian swiftly shifted from blissed-out noise pop to a ritualistic form of modern trance sitting comfortably between the visceral pulse of dance and the cerebral headspace of the avant-garde. It is in this very spirit that Alligator Indian bring you their latest EP, More Songs About Animals and TV, out now digitally and on cassette from Bleeding Gold Records.