Animal Choir by Her Name is CallaRelease date: May 31, 2019
Label: Dunk! Records
The prospect of this being the last Her Name is Calla album is one, I’ve yet to process and not one I’m ready to accept. I’m outraged. This is quite probably the most powerful offering from the band yet and I genuinely consider them, in particular, front human Tom Morris, to be some of the most emotionally resonating artists I’ve ever heard. Their music harbours enormous catharsis not only in its ability to withdraw tears but, in it’s ability to create epic swarms of emotional rapture. It’s most unbridled moments brimming with wrath and frenzy.
I love music because of bands like Her Name is Calla…who not only make you feel like someone understands your pain but, uses that fact to show you that your pain is what made you who you are and those experiences are the most amazing thing we can share with each other ‘cause it’s not about what we lost, it’s about what we gained along the way. We may be about to lose Her Name is Calla but, their music will always be something that changed us and made us feel that wave of endorphins that comes only from Her Name is Calla. While on the one hand my brain might think “fuck you Calla, for making an album so brilliant and then leaving me! And especially you Tom for doing it twice!” On the other hand, I’m so happy to have heard such an amazing, masterpiece of an album. I feel like I’m watching a magic trick and they’ve just tricked me so, I’m amazed but, I wish the trick didn’t involve one of my favourite bands disappearing.
The aptly named ‘Swan’ opens the album with a brass-driven sense of grandeur that feels like an army approaching in the distance. The song feels like it thematically deals with judgement and the expectations that people have of you, with lyrics that sing “They’re sons and daughters of a God just like me and you. And we’ve had years to get out of this” and the song’s breakdown that features Tom Morris singing repeatedly “Tear it down, tear it down” before exploding into a crescendo of “Tear it down again and again and again until it’s right. But, it’ll never be right because faith is blind and wants love at a higher kind of price. But not like this and not for them because it’s not worth it. They want it all.” And one has to wonder whether that’s a comment on the artist’s relationship with their critics and audience or if it’s more about people in your life for whom you will never be good enough. There’s a sense of redemption and self-actualisation in the song’s soaring instrumentals and in many ways it feels like a nice, big fuck you to everyone we lose our mind’s trying to please. Everyone who we drain our energy for.
‘The Dead Rift’ seems to carry on this theme flipping it to proverbially say ‘well, let’s see you put yourself up here and bare your naked soul’ with its lyrics “I wanna see you try, I wanna see you cry, I wanna see you try and shed a tear”. Although, it’s perhaps interesting to note that whilst the former, track features a very different sound of Her Name is Calla in terms of its electronics, the sophomore track focuses instead on a more high-paced take on the band but, it still feels like a big progression into a more immediate and precise form of the band. It’s gonna take a lot for me not to just say this is the best thing Her Name is Calla have ever released over and over again.
‘Kaleidoscoping’ is fucking beautiful. It has this beautifully extraterrestrial, orchestral quality reminiscent of Bjork or specifically Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ album, it’s piano work is beautifully somber and the vocals evocative in part of ‘Sea of Tranquility’ from the final TE Morris album Newfoundland. I tend to get caught up in the fucking exceptional lyrics when I write about Her Name is Calla but, each of the tracks has fucking solid instrumental work. In ‘Bleach’, I really love the sound of the guitars and strings spiralling together as they build tension and the crescendo is probably the most explosive of any Calla song to date. The guitars are just fucking amazing, absolutely face-melting brilliance. Totally incredible.
The introduction to ‘A Modern Vesper’ has really beautiful vocals but, I love the complex yet, subdued drum rolls beneath, they create a really interesting dichotomy. Then seemingly out of nowhere, there’s a fucking sick phat bassline played by Tiernan Welch that drives everything forward against these totally out of character disco drums. It sounds completely different to anything Her Name is Calla have ever done. How can they end with such a bold new start? It’s so bittersweet to hear such a masterpiece and know it’s a swan song. The song’s breakdown is so powerful, “Running out of empathy, running out of who I used to be” hits me so close to home. The most recent portion of my life has seen me face so many problems that I often find myself running out of patience and understanding or compassion for others. I believe in art as catharsis and I think so many people who love this band’s music will relate to Animal Choir‘s thematics; it’s a record with a lot to say. I guess when we write a letter to say goodbye, there’s always a lot to cover. The ending of this track again, is just totally different to anything the band has done before, it’s so doomy, I love it. I know I’m not even halfway through talking about the songs but, this album is an absolute masterpiece. One of the best things I’ve ever heard and totally of its own character. It covers so many directions.
One of my favourite songs on this album is ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I love the refrain of “That sound is the crunch of the human spirit breaking”. I love the Teeth of The Sea style trumpet, that feel the arrival of the rapture. I find it hard to really describe it but, I think it’s one of my favourite Calla songs ever and I definitely think it’s one of two songs I’d say to listen to if you don’t know the band but, want to check out the album, the other one would probably be ‘Vanguard’ but, more to come on that later.
I like that ‘A Rush of Blood’ and ‘Frontier’ feel like a kind of callback to the more classic sound of the band whilst also functioning as a sort of interlude. Their use of organs and then, a more typical folk-style arrangement feel a lot more in-keeping with what I imagine many people thought would make up the bulk of this albums direction but, I’m glad the band managed to gobsmack us instead. As interludes go ‘Pyre’ is one of the most beautiful and serene pieces of music Her Name is Calla have ever made as well. Its so gentle and serene, I love it.
‘Vanguard’ overall has suddenly become probably my all time favourite Her Name is Calla song. I love the simple yet, completely captivating vocals and piano for the first verse, the melody is absolutely euphonic. The chorus twists everything into this amazing manifestation of an emotional or narcotic loss of control. Morris heartbreakingly croons repeatedly “What am I saying” as strings flutter and soft backing vocals unsettlingly attempt to sooth the discord. I wonder why the song is called ‘Vanguard’, I keep wondering if its supposed to conjure a sense of being constantly on the frontline of a battle with oneself? The string arrangement written by Adam Weikert is fucking breathtaking but, it is equally exquisite by the virtue of it’s performance by Anja Madhvani. The ending is completely overwhelming in the best possible way. If you listen to one Her Name is Calla song in your life, listen to ‘Vanguard’.
‘Deer Trapping’ is a weird fucking song and still manages to surprise me on such a shocking release. It seems to be a trap song with hunting samples instead of vocals. I feel as though the title is somewhat ironic as an explanation but, it seems strange how it sits between such contrastingly weighty offerings. ‘To The Other’ is a classic Her Name is Calla punch in the gut. Morris’ tear-inducing signature vocals are as devastating as ever. It’s so comforting and yet, so fucking sad at the same time. The dude knows how to make a person cry, that’s for sure. I’d have loved to have seen this in a festival setting. Tears of people shuffling out of the tent after the set with red, weepy eyes wondering whether to shuffle off to the next band or shuffle off this mortal coil. That was a unique sight for me at ArcTanGent 2015 where I first saw the band. Some bands you never get over. For the past couple of years that’s been Bad Guys for me but, I can’t see myself bleeding for any band more than I will for Her Name is Calla. It feels like they’re just getting to their peak, it feels like they’re still evolving. Man, it hurts. It’s like saying goodbye to someone you love and not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. That’s how much I feel it. I feel it like I felt when I was a kid and Sora, the main character from Kingdom Hearts, gives himself up and becomes a Heartless (a shadow devoid of character and emotion) and I fucking cried my eyes out ‘cause he was gone…and though, he came back, I mourned all the same. But, whilst ‘Robert and Gerda’ is probably even moreso tear-inducing than ‘To The Other’, it says exactly what you need to hear “Its who we are now”. This phase of the band’s life is over now, things are different for them now. Yeah, I’m gonna sit here and dream of a reunion down the line and yes, this chorus made me fucking cry because I love their music so much and I feel like it’s given me so much but, fair fucking play to them for going out on the highest peak of their career to date with easily the album of the year. Fucking devastating.
I want to talk about every track because I think each track is part of what makes this such a perfect album but, when you get to this point, if you’re not speechless and emotionally exhausted, then you probably don’t share my perspective at all. All I can say is ‘Bloodline’ feels like the band putting a warm blanket around it’s broken audience and lifting us back up after the completely overwhelming set of tracks that were just unleashed on us. And then, Tom starts to sing “I don’t wanna be a part of this” and fucking hell. It’s too much. I can see this being a wonderfully cathartic track when it doesn’t feel like a different perspective on ‘Robert and Gerda’ that feels like either the band or Morris finally deciding their done with music; it’s probably about something personal but, fuck..”I don’t wanna be a stranger in a strange land anymore, there’s nothing else to say, this the part where we change or we fade or we dig even deeper down, I’ll see you in the next life”.
The final song, on the final Her Name is Calla album is ‘In This Patterned Room’, it’s sparse, arresting and haunting. If you’re anything like me, every time you hear it you’re gonna be emotionally shell-shocked by your own devastation by this point and the track is just gonna soundtrack the enormous sense of loss and astoundment you’re feeling but, this is why I love this band in the first place. They connect with me with such a tight grip, the loss of the band being soundtracked by such a phenomenal swan song is not only fitting but, it also satisfyingly devastating.
Goodbye Her Name is Calla, I love you. Thank you for sharing your exceptionally wonderful music with the world, Animal Choir is a masterpiece and should be considered a foremost contender for everyone’s album of the year and beyond.