It’s more than well established that Joe Keery, best known as Steve Harrington from Stranger Things, is in the band Post Animal. But on the merits of the Chicago sextet’s stunning debut full-length When I Think of You in a Castle, Post Animal are about to establish themselves as much more than just a footnote in a Hollywood celebrity’s biography. Plus, Keery is unable to join his bandmates on their spring tour due to his filming commitments.
Post Animal are Dalton Allison on bass, Wes Toledo on drums, Jake Hirshland on keys and guitar, Javi Reyes on additional guitar, Keery on more guitar, and Matt Williams on… even more guitar. Unique for a band of their size, they all sing. Together, they have been grinding it out since 2014. In that time, they have released the EP Post Animal Perform the Most Curious Water Activities (2015) and various singles collected as The Garden Series (2016). The band have also toured with White Reaper, Twin Peaks, and Wavves.
Opening track “Everywhere All at Once” lulls listeners with tranquil acoustic guitar, disarming them before the band pounce on them with a psychedelic prog-rock attack on second song “Gelatin Mode”. From here on, Post Animal validate comparisons to Steely Dan and Black Sabbath with hard riffs and hypnotic double-, triple-, and quadruple-helix guitar leads. Many of Post Animal’s influences come to the fore too through the band’s penchant for the operatic rock of Electric Light Orchestra and the melodies and grooves of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Abba. Post Animal pull from contemporary names too – heady names like Ty Segall, Tame Impala, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Looking back then, lead single “Ralphie” might be misleading in the way it parts clouds and lets the sun shine, especially if “Ralphie” is one’s first exposure to Post Animal. But When I Think of You in a Castle isn’t entirely unlike “Ralphie” either. “Tired Eyes” was made for dancing. “One Thing” drifts over and across high, green plains. “Special Moment” is tempered enough and sung in a register high enough to give the song much mainstream appeal, even though the big guitars on “Special Moment” may have a bit too much gravitas for inoffensive, feel-good taste.
Post Animal have said they take inspiration from their physical environments. It’s easy to imagine that recording When I Think of You in a Castle at a friend’s lake house in Michigan influenced the album’s fluidity and openness, qualities less pronounced on the rest of their releases which they recorded within the congested urban confines of Chicago. As multi-layered and busy as the songs on Castle may be, Post Animal rarely seem to be in a rush to cram in as much in as they can (perhaps a result of removing themselves from the bustle of urban life). Although, one of the busiest songs, “Heart Made of Metal”, which starts at a cool head-bobbing pace, takes a dooming turn into one of the gnarliest, sludgiest riffs on the album. The instrumental title-track that immediately follows basically extends “Heart” into a colossal brain-bending.
With a slickly produced full-length debut that draws upon such a wide range of seemingly opposite classics and contemporaries in equal parts, Post Animal won’t have to worry about landing on their feet if Keery has to officially leave the band; Post Animal aren’t going to fall in the first place just because Steve is busy battling the Upside Down.
review by Leslie Chu