Idealistic Animals [CD]
1. Fox (Take Four Chances)
2. Monkey (Go Home Now)
3. Mole (Mole)
4. Earthworm (All Hail Our Hailing Mother)
5. Giraffe (What's Wrong With Us)
6. Man (Idealistic Animals)
7. Camel (Not Black Or White But Camel)
8. Whale (Boohoo)
9. Bear (Young's Done In)
10. Elephant (Hearter)
11. Kite (Soon We'll Light Up)
The unique set of circumstances behind the album’s genesis – a top to bottom search for a new way to exist – lends the record an unusual air of cynicism and candour that has allowed her to name each song after an animal, as though the album is a 21st Century take on Aesop’s Fables. Not many people could pull off a song like ‘MOLE (Mole)’, which features two myopic animals colliding underground, or ‘(WHALE) Boohoo’, in which she imagines she’s a giant wave overwhelming New York, and few would delight in throwing a Shape-Note choir into the middle of the otherwise placid ‘CAMEL (Not Black Or White But Camel)’, something MacNeil did after she found herself fascinated by their unusual vocal style. But Macneil’s style is singular, and all the more seductive for it.
The album was initially demoed on piano and guitar before MacNeil began gathering musicians around her, from Calexico’s Martin Wenk to her sound engineer’s parents. Following his work on the debut album, the inestimable production skills of Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls, ex-Menomena) were then called upon, with two weeks spent in Leipzig – “It was kind of like camping,” MacNeil recalls, “there was no real kitchen, no hot water, we were holed up with only one key so we basically didn’t leave!” – and then further sessions and mixing in Portland.