Post Animal’s debut album When I think of You in a Castle, released in 2018, was one of my favorite albums in the past couple years. With elements of Tame Impala and White Denim, the Chicago-based psych rock band amazed with songs like “Gelatin Mode” and “Dirtpicker.” About two years later, Dalton Allison (bass), Jake Hirshland (guitar/keyboard), Javi Reyes (guitar), Wesley Toledo (drums), and Matt Williams (guitar) are back, with Post Animal’s new release, Forward Motion Godyssey.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the band’s sophomore effort. Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery had left the band, so how would that change things, if at all? The one song I heard before its release, “Schedule,” was on the pop-y side so I wondered if that was more of the direction Post Animal would take on Forward Motion Godyssey. However, I’ve found the new album to actually more fully embrace the progg-y and psychedelic elements I enjoyed on the band’s first album. And I’m really excited about it.
The first third of Forward Motion Godyssey is pure magic. As on their previous album, Post Animal uses a collaborative approach to songwriting and alternates vocalists. The first three songs feature three different singers. Opening song “Your Life Away” is a slow burner. The contrast in vocals is chilling, with the deep-sounding opening “Over time/I got a lot of friends, it keeps growing/Keeping me company when my hand’s glowing/Setting it down is worse than not knowing” contrasting with the lighter “Don’t give your whole life away/That is all you have to do” sets the mood right off the bat. And then the majestic chorus kicks in along with an epic keyboard riff: “Take your love away/Would it ever be enough?”
The end of the song (the longest on the album, clocking in at almost six minutes), features the chorus repeating in a soaring fashion before a fantastic guitar solo kicks in with dueling harmonies. I’m a big believer in a strong opening song to an album. And “Your Life Away” fits the bill in a major way. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Post Animal proclaiming, “Hey, we’re back and not going away anytime soon.”
Following up on the amazing opener is probably the best song on Forward Motion Godyssey, “Post Animal.” The song begins softly, with a groove that at first reminded me of early Pink Floyd, perhaps “Let There Be More Light” off A Saucerful of Secrets. But then quickly, the song explodes into a metal-prog riff that is infectious.
Again, the contrast in vocals works well with the haunting question: “Are you, are you, are you animal?/Are you, are you, are you honest?” leading seamlessly into the high-pitched “What we see, not a test/Nothing to ignore/Waiting with bated breath/One foot out the door.” This is great stuff. The bass line from Dalton Allison during this breakdown is dizzying and frantic. “Post Animal,” the song, concludes with a change in direction, turning spacey over “All that we can do/See through it all…See…”
This song feels heavier than most of anything from When I think of You in a Castle. It’s a darker path, and I love it.
Rounding out the first three songs of the album is the aforementioned “Schedule.” It is indeed the poppiest song on the album, but it has really grown on me. The vocals are dream-like, about a love lost. “Schedule” feels very ’80s, and I particularly enjoy the end of the song, with the singer sadly stating, “It gets cold at night, cold at night…cold.” I would say that this song may seem out of place with the rest of the album; it definitely has a different feel from the heavier and trippier sounds in other songs, but just plain works here.
“Fitness” returns us back to the psychedelic side of things. The song has a mystical feel to it, with an almost chant of “Run with me, fitness is all I know.” At first the song may come across as a person’s thoughts while out for a long-distance run. I get a kick out of the line: “Forward Motion God is the words of this song/Don’t complete these words, just cut them.”
But I think it’s really about a metaphor for getting through life. “I’m outpacing a feeling that someone can serve as a home/Just focus on reaching the things that are under control/And do it alone.” This line is very relevant to me right now, as I’m trying to remember to only take care of what I can control. It’s not worth worrying about the things that are out of my hands. It’s better to focus on what’s in front of me and charge ahead.
The album’s fifth song, “In a Paradise,” is another stand-out. It interestingly has this almost heavy-metal bluegrass feel due to the interplay between the guitar and drums during the verses. The song then veers into more straight prog-metal for the chorus: “I see an eagle in a tailored suit/There’s nothing quite like its point of view/It’s like a mirror looking through my eyes/A life, unlived, shattered by disguise.” Get your head-banging ready for this one.
“How Do You Feel” slows things down a bit, with a soul sound. A banging jam is sandwiched into the middle of the song, but this song overall feels a bit too long and loses momentum at times.
However, things pick back up in a big way with “Safe or Not.” A dancy tune with high energy, it has a chorus that will get stuck in your head for days: “We can get it right/Believin’ in the light/Are you safe or not?/Happens all the time/Happens all the time.” I have so many favorite songs on this album, and “Safe or Not” is definitely up at the top.
The final three songs on the album are a bit of a weak spot, but the songs all have their moments. “Private Shield” is very catchy, but I feel like it never quite reaches its potential. “Damaged Goods” takes a bit getting there, but the final minute of the song absolutely kills it with some of the album’s finest prog sections. The closing song on Forward Motion Godyssey, “Sifting,” is a bit sleepy and doesn’t provide that final-song punch that “Dirtpicker” did on When I think of You in a Castle.
I am absolutely loving Post Animal’s Forward Motion Godyssey. The many highs far outweigh the few low points. The Chicago music scene is pretty exciting at the moment, and I think Post Animal will be a big part of that going forward.