What Kind of Animal, the latest from Toronto's LUKA, comes with a suggestion from the mind behind it all, Luke Kuplowsky: "The record is a slow burn, and in my opinion, ideal for a late night or early morning walk." Kuplowsky is right; though the album boils slow like water in the kettle, the end result will soothe as much as that cup of tea with honey.
The album impresses, in part because it was recorded live from the floor in just one winter's day in January 2017, but also because of the pervasive sense of Kuplowsky's control: that of the instrumentation, which dances between sweet and sparse to restless and improvised, and of his own voice, which waltzes between observational poetry akin to Leonard Cohen and Jonathan Richman. He pays careful attention to cadence and the softness of his delivery.
On standout track "Animal," Kuplowsky explores feelings of self-doubt and vulnerability as an artist: "Oh yeah, what a joke / There is a single part of doubt I suppose / That one day I will be singing with my nose right out / Sniffing up the asshole of some talent scout." "Quick Reflex" speaks of a childhood keepsake (his older brother's baseball cap) and boasts an awfully sweet melody and delightful female backing accompaniment (another nod to Cohen-like song writing, and quite frankly something that isn't featured nearly enough on this record).
"Happy" mixes in unexpected sonic interruptions — an abrupt drum hit, a sneaking cymbal, a bum note embraced, a relentless guitar wail — and then ends with the song seemingly losing its footing, falling apart. "Greenie," with the sweet repeated line of "Filling up my cup, up my baby's cup," mirrors that cacophonous fun with blunt hits of a glass here and there, while the bass and guitar engage in conversation, the bass making simple statements while the guitar insists.
There's constant contrast here, most often between Kuplowsky's voice and the musical din below. And as on his previous releases, he continues to play with words: "In sifting through my memories / I cannot help but be dazzled / by debris / de bris / da breeze/ the breeze," he sings on opener "Near Collision."
The production on this record highlights the closeness of his vocals, resulting in an intimacy that makes each song seem delivered to you and for you alone — and an with almost eerie comfort to it all. Kuplowsky plays with his guitar held high and his heart full, and What Kind of Animal captures it all warmly, patiently and clearly. (Independent)