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Pattern-Seeking Animals - Prehensile Tales review

Heartfelt odes and colourful playing from the Californian quartet

Pattern-Seeking Animals
(Image: © InsideOut Music)

Given Pattern-Seeking Animals’ other life as part of American progressive rock juggernaut Spock’s Beard, it came as no shock that their eponymous first collection blew everyone away last year. Indeed, the group – bassist Dave Meros, keyboardist John Boegehold, drummer/singer Jimmy Keegan, and singer/guitarist Ted Leonard – had already spent many albums creating superb work together. That said, Pattern-Seeking Animals did enough on its own to capitalise on their chemistry in familiar
ways while also setting itself apart from that other outlet. Impressively, they’re back less than a year later with Prehensile Tales a continuation of that magic whose blend of top-notch songwriting and seductively eccentric but welcoming scores are damn near faultless.

Previously, they relished a spacious arsenal of instruments, and on their second album, they go even further by including trumpet, cello, saxophone, pedal steel, flute, and violin. Produced by Boegehold and mixed by Rich Mouser, Prehensile Tales tackles subjects as wide-ranging as “second chances in life to vampires to shipwrecks to facing mortality”. Although the quick turnaround from one record to the next is surprising, Boegehold began working on this immediately after the debut was done. Rather than seeming rushed or unambitious, each moment oozes meticulous planning, superlative ability, and a wonderful shared vision.

First and foremost, the songwriting is outright luminous. Once again, they’re able to bestow sing-along hooks and universally imaginative yet sobering lyricism that’s also deceptively sophisticated and nuanced. Specifically, the bittersweet ballad Here In My Autumn sees Leonard alternating between soaring declarations and tender realisations perfectly, prior to the epic and harrowing storytelling of Lifeboat. Every melody, sentiment, and vocal is first-rate, just as you’d expect. 

Naturally, the quartet provide healthily vibrant and multifaceted doses of proggy goodness along the way, too. Opener Raining Hard In Heaven is filled with the same sort of beautiful tones and entangled intricacies that make Spock’s Beard gems like Jaws Of Heaven so spectacular. Elsewhere, Why Don’t We Run is organic and playful – with dashes of Latin and Middle Eastern trademarks – whereas Soon But Not Today wraps it all up with a deep dive into stylish zaniness as only these guys can provide. Prehensile Tales is precisely what you want out of Pattern-Seeking Animals: a sublime union of excellent songwriting outstanding singing and backing harmonies. It’s a breathtaking collective statement.