It’s hard to imagine a musician creating an entire album geared around what he, or she, can accomplish on a keyboard, but that’s precisely what Jarrod Quarrell aimed to do with his Lost Animal project. Don’t you worry your little head, the songs within Ex Tropical are anything but basic keyboard tunes; they’re soulful ballads dabbling in sonic exploration.
The introductory track from Lost Animal is aptly titled “Intro – Beat Goes On,” giving notice that despite the confines of primarily using a keyboard to craft tunes, there’s a huge deal of soul lurking on the entirety of the collection. Quarrell’s voice has a hint of gruffness, which provides a darker texture to the otherwise pop-laden hooks of this opener. You’ll see that haunted soul completely take over on the following tune “Say No to Thugs,” which really seems like a less-orchestrated Spiritualized. While it may be stripped down, Jarrod’s vocals really seek to evoke that last drop of emotion from the depths of your inner being.
It’s hard to escape the dark feeling that comes with Ex Tropical, and that’s aside from the obvious reference to a move away from sunlight in the title. When you come to a song like “Dark Litter” there are definite sonic flourishes that add to the song, but the overall simplicity is what really allows you immerse yourself in what Lost Animal is trying to accomplish. If you stripped it all down to a simple keyboard line, it’d still be a solemn number. That being said, you can still find yourself some more playful moments popping in and out.
Just after what’s the darkest moment, for my ears, you get the playful striding beat of “Cold Cut Nature.” It’s placed perfectly in the collection, giving you a more light-hearted vibe that originates with that bobbing beat. You’ll even find Quarrell playing with his vocal approach by mixing up the tones throughout this tune. It’s comparable to the driving beat that hides behind “Lose Your Baby,” even though the subject matter isn’t necessarily the most uplifting. Such is the nature of the work on this record; it goes wherever it wants to go. But, for my two cents, you should not pass go without listening to “Old Lovers.” It’s hard to explain what’s more strikingly beautiful: the keyboard work, guttural emotion or the soft touches of backing vocals. Whatever it is, this is surely a special song.
Honestly, Ex Tropical might not be a record for an everyday listen, but it’s an album that everybody needs to listen to at some point in time. Jarrod Quarrell has found himself in the work he’s created for Lost Animal, leaving listeners with the perfect balance between barroom soul and pop balladry. You’re not likely to find much else out there quite as unique as this, making this a hidden gem for those who choose to invest their time in the perfect listening experience.
Download: Lost Animal – Say No To Thugs [MP3]