reviewed by Michael Thomas
To walk into and fully enjoy a LUKA album, pack for a long journey. At a first pass, you’ll appreciate the cadence of Luke Kuplowsky’s voice and you’ll pick up on some of his wordplay. You’ll appreciate some of his bolder touches on songs, like when he starts just strumming an acoustic guitar and ends with a flurry of electric guitar and crashing drums. But like a Korean tea ceremony, the first part is only an introduction. The longer you spend with LUKA, the more you’ll grow to understand and appreciate the nuance.
LUKA’s second album in two years is shorter than Summon Up a Monkey King but I could easily go on for thousands of words about it—just like Laura and I did about its predecessor. There are other differences, of course. What Kind of Animal was recorded live in a single session, with Kuplowsky’s backing band (Sam Gleason on guitar, Cory Harper-Latkovich on bass and Evan Cartwright on drums) largely improvising their parts. It’s easy to tell how much confidence the band has in their abilities.
Take “Happy,” which the blog recently premiered and is an album standout. The song is already compelling with just an acoustic guitar and Kuplowsky’s lyrics like “I have so much happiness/That I miss my friends’ sadness.” But when Gleason moves in on electric guitar and Cartwright starts pounding the drums, it transcends its folk roots and becomes something more. Similarly, “Animal” packs a lot into four minutes. He has some surprising venom in lines like “One day I’ll be singing with my nose right out/Sniffing out the asshole of some talent scout” but he again takes the song from contemplative to loud.
There’s still a playful side to LUKA, such as the lighter-sounding “Quick Reflex.” The song has long been a staple of the live show and it’s nice to finally hear it recorded. He begins the song with a description of a baseball cap and it’s a segue into a longer journey through Kuplowsky’s memories. It’s also nice to hear Julie Arsenault and Ada Dahli
Other times, it’s nice to sit and contemplate some of Kuplowsky’s quieter songs. In “Who Knows Anyway,” we wonder about influence and knowledge. Kuplowsky wonders about gods and the future. The beautiful “Near Collision” describes the act as two cars “almost kissing” and uses other very descriptive phrases like “I felt my heart for a lump” and “Was I dry or engulfed by the ocean?”
The final song, “Greenie,” is a best-of-both-worlds ending, featuring both LUKA’s contemplative and louder sides. The clinking-glass percussion is a nice contrast to Kuplowsky’s guitar and the song eventually expands to get louder. After only a few listens, What Kind of Animal already feels like a companion. Sooner or later it’ll be a best friend.
Top Tracks: “Animal”; “Happy”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*