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27 - animal life


College Music Journal

If you can picture yourself in a smoky Paris café on a sweltering summer night with no air conditioning, you are halfway to being ready for 27's latest album, Animal Life. Comprised of ex-members of Dirt Merchants and Spore, 27 sounds nothing like those bands in the slightest. Instead of an all-out visceral noise assault, the Boston three-piece aims below the belt with a quiet bullet of pure sensuality - which is more subversive then screaming at the top of your lungs could ever hope to be. Even when the band does turn up the guitars on songs like "Heat Sink," Maria Christopher's sultry vocals wrap the songs in a sexy velvet grip. The dreamy "No Water" and galloping country of "Trouble Heart" are among other high points that will have listeners purring with delight. These songs may be slinky and provocative, but they aren't bereft of class with tasteful samples and subtle jazz flourishes. Put this record on at your next party and hold on tight. - Brad Filicky


All Music Guide

27's roots in guitar rock bands like the Dirt Merchants and Spore offer no indication of the raw power and beauty to be found on Animal Life - its grim yet ethereal sound occupies the space between the wasted blues-rock of fellow Bostonites Come and the slow-motion psychedelia of Mazzy Star and Low, complete with electronic textures and eclectic samples that ultimately render such comparison points moot. Maria Christopher's sensuous, impassioned vocals are the focal point here, but Ayol Naor's guitar leads are remarkably expressive as well, shifting effortlessly from to chiming atmospherics to crunching drones - the songs rise, curl, and twist like smoke from a cigarette. - Jason Ankeny


KEXP Seattle 90.3 FM

A very sweet effort of subtle and moody electro-pop from this Boston trio, highlighted by Maria Christopher's beautiful vocals. The lush atmosphere brings to mind Ivy or Mazzy Star at times. - John Richards



I love this album. I love it because it doesn't pretend. It doesn't try too hard. It doesn't stretch itself too far, trying to be the next big anything. It's just damn good music.

27 hangs its hat on Maria Christopher's voice. Breathy, dusky, couched in dark corners, Christopher isn't the kind of girl you need to hug, help or protect. She's the kind of girl you meet at a bar, who could potentially outdrink you and still drive you home. She's a femme fatale, wreathed in smoke and face half cast in shadow. In short, she's an original, and likely to inspire comparisons to everyone from Esthero to Beth Orton. But with her delivery -- her laconic, languorous approach, every line a hushed whisper -- you might do better by comparing future songstresses to her.

Animal Life is nothing you haven't heard before, and yet it is. None of these songs are remakes, and the only listed sample comes on "No Water," from Charles Mingus's "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady." The rest of the album is familiar only because these are songs you've heard in your head a million times as part of the Collective Subconscious, begging to be recorded. If you bob your head, if you predict where the breaks are, it's only because they're where they're supposed to be. 27 has fashioned a trip-pop album that is listenable, hummable and infectious from the get-go.

"No Water" has a hook that will stick in your head despite your best intentions. While not every song on the album is this radio-friendly, all of them could be, given a chance by a courageous listener on the make for something new. "Trouble Heart" is the song the Cowboy Junkies would write if they were ever optimistic. "Sky Walker" is Dummy-era Portishead without the throbbing bass. "9 Mile Burn" is a gorgeous marriage of discordant harmonies and Christopher's light-as-air vocals. Make no mistake: light as they may be, these vocals are not swept away effortlessly, but will probably settle like pollen in the back of your mind. Discerning the lyrics requires conscious effort, but every melody is slight enough to haunt you at work all day long, infecting your coworkers as you hum along, enthralled.

If I, and not SPIN, had the power to proclaim instant modern classics, I would dub Animal Life the first widely accessible, no-assembly-required hit album of the year. "For An Exchange" is about the catchiest song Jill Sobule never wrote, and "Cavella" makes its living from a bird call, as near as I can tell. Those are two of nine reasons to crown 27 the next coming of intelligent and infectious pop, but I have a feeling it'll take the rest of the music intelligentsia awhile to catch on. Don't wait until they're shoving 27 down your throat -- though you could be forced to swallow worse things. Get on the bandwagon now, while it's still parked and in need of a driver. -- Justin Kownacki



After a critically acclaimed EP, a single release, and several compilation appearances, 27 release "Animal Life" their debut full-length on Kimchee Records. Recorded "at home" by the band and self-produced, "Life" shows off the same elements listeners already know and love about 27, but here the band spreads its wings and delivers its first masterpiece. Seeing 27 live, you hear a lot more in terms of dynamics than what was heard on "Songs From the Edge of the Wing." Those dynamics are heard here, in all their glory, plus some interesting additions to 27's sound. There is a greater integration of samples (including one from Charles Mingus on the first track), and sprinklings here and there of horns (drummer Neil Coulon plays clarinet) and strings. Overall, though, the songwriting has improved, though the subject matter is still very much the same. Songs of frailty and failed relationships never sounded this lush. There is also an attack in these songs, hidden just below the surface, that can utterly destroy you, and should, were it not for the sheer beauty of it all. And everywhere, Maria Christopher's voice is clear and soaring, as always, even when double-tracked and softly sung. There is another voice adding flavor on these songs, too, as Ayal Naor harmonizes and follows Christopher's lead on select tracks, most notably on 'Undone.' These songs are more striking than anything 27 have put to tape so far. The intimacy seems more enveloping, the instrumentation warmer. By the time you reach 'Cavalla,' the album's ten minute closer, with its haunting crickets and whistle that gradually fade into the band's steady and heavy rhythm, you're utterly a believer. "Didn't you learn?/It's supposed to burn" sings Christopher, right before they bring the wall of sound back in to show you how it's done when it's done right. There are no missteps or weaknesses here. This is slow rock music of the highest quality. Don't miss out. "Animal Life" is available now on the 27 website, with wider release soon. - Rob Devlin


In Music We Trust

Airy guitar pop with a voice like an angel, 27's Animal Life is a mellow, glowingly melodic record, buried underneath the breezy, serene guitars and gentle vocals. Sparse instrumentation accompanies the guitars and vocals, giving the dream-inducing songs a surprisingly dreamier fill. The songs are soft like a pillow and nurturing like a mom, the kinds of songs you can lay your head down and feel comforted. Twenty-Seven isn't without rock moments, either, shaking you with the passive, yet semi-abrasive indie rock side now and then. I'll give this an A-. (Alex Steininger)


Audio Galaxy

From the late '90s, when Rolling Stone began touting the "women of rock" and declaring every other year the "year of the woman," until the recent uprising of testosterone-fueled Alterna-crap in the mainstream, female singer/songwriters concerned with integrity had to struggle to separate themselves from the everyday Lilith fare. "Dawson's Creek" soundtracks came and went, and many of the women of Lilith barely survived to tell the tale.

Maria Christopher probably spent a lot of time during those years watching the Lilith crowd and silently shaking her head. With her talent for songwriting, gently sweet voice, and downtempo rock style, she easily could have let herself get swept up in the trend. But Christopher is no stranger to the fickle nature of the industry - in 1995 her band the Dirt Merchants released their debut on Sony/Epic, only to have their follow-up disappear into major label purgatory.

So instead, Christopher formed 27 in 1998 with fellow Bostionian and former Spore member Ayal Naor. Their debut, Animal Life, was just released on Boston indie Kimchee Records. The group's sound is somber, driven by slightly fuzzy yet slow guitar work with understated drums, and the occasional piano, pedal steel, or sample thrown in. With cues from Slint and other Chicago groups, this band's complex instrumentation would work just as well as instrumental Post-Rock.

"Christopher morphs from a loungey chanteuse to a dark Country singer to an Aimee Mann-esque mature Rock Singer/songwriter. And that's just in the first three songs." But what really makes the album shine is Christopher's vocal style. She morphs from a loungey chanteuse to a dark Country singer to an Aimee Mann-esque mature Rock Singer/songwriter. And that's just in the first three songs. She avoids the typical Lilith style with a restrained tone, mature lyrics, and little concern for vocal hook. As a result, the group's sound is much more likely to please fans of Mann, P.J. Harvey, or Cat Power than Sarah McLachlan.

Animal Life's high point is its opener, "No Water," which samples Charles Mingus and makes me think of a grown-up, jazz-fied version of Harvey's "Down by the Water." Another strength is the country ballad "Trouble Heart," where Christopher's suddenly-acquired twang compliments the pedal steel. The album is an impressive debut, but that's no surprise considering the collective experince of the band members. With talents in such a diverse range of sounds, this group surely has more good things to come.

Lacey Tauber


Indie Workshop

To try and put 27 into one category would be a futile effort. This album, without straying too far from home, weaves its way in and out of so many different musical styles it's dizzying. The trio blurs lines between dreamy country, dub, and slowcore. This album, after the first listen, had me scratching my head, "Why does this work?" It just does. Maria Christopher could take most of the credit for that. Her voice is the glue that is keeping all of these songs sounding like they are coming from the same effort. The way the record flows makes it seem more like a comp than a record, but for some reason, this works too. It takes a hold of your interest and doesn't let go. You can't get away with listening to one or two songs; you're always wondering what the next song will sound like. And more importantly where the next song will take you. It seems as though the record is more like a journey for the three musicians; they are in touch with their roots as much as they are treading new ground. The songs "No Water" and "Sky Walker" make up the electronica part of the album. The songs sound like Esthero with Aimee Mann singing. They have quite a relaxing feel. "Trouble Heart" will be the first time you run across the dreamy country sound, which is kind of a mix between Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star, but probably closer to the Junkies. "Undone" also has this same feel, but more subdued. From there on out, most of the songs stay closer to classic mellow indie pop, but still with its twists and turns. Well, until the last song, "Cavalla." A meandering epic, closer to a dirty noise rock band than to the songs before it. Again, somehow it works. The noisy clashing of the chorus is closer to Maria's old band the Dirt Merchants. But, damn it if it isn't the right thing to end the album on. It also has a nice minute or so of nightlife noises to bring the album to a close. From start to finish, this album will keep you on your influence sniffing toes. But, it seems to make it that much more of an enjoyable experience, and gives it tons of replay value. (Jake)


Calamity Project

oh man! where do i begin??! this, to me, is the greatest mellow record put out this year. 27 features ex-spore, dirt merchants, and anodyne members that come together to play mellow and experimental music that combines elements of folk, indie, and rock.

maria christopher's vocals are simply stunning. they're soothing, yet powerful, a great addition to the mellow beats, guitars, samples, and other instruments brought forth by maria, guitarist ayal naor, and drummer neil coulon.

the record starts out with a nice piano sample, and kicks in to a moody rendition of "no water", the song that sets the moody pace for the rest of the record. the album closes with cavalla, which happens to be my favorite track on the record. the record ends with the sound of night-time, crickets and the like.

please do yourself a favor and pick up this record. you will most definitely enjoy it. this will not fail to please your ears.


Dallas Music Guide

Animal Life is strange. I wonder if I were the lone sheep on the cover, the one that seems to have strayed from the flock, into fuller pastures, under a bluer sky, if it would all make more sense? The title of the album, the cover art, the odd disjointed songs that seem to live inside themselves with equal parts lethargy and distress, all seem to be a kind of Orwellian reference, but then again there is the inclusion of PETA's web address in the liner notes. Whether the meaning of it all is literal or implied, the result borders on pretension; thankfully 27 seems to understand that a little pretense goes a long way.

Generally speaking, it is pretty safe to say that you should steer away from indie bands who wear their jazz influences on their sleeve (Thurston Moore + trumpet player = free form suck fest that he claims to be jazz influenced). 27, however, does an excellent job of steering clear of the now cliché sloppiness that marks so much of the indie scene, and uses a piano sample from 'The Saint & The Sinner Lady' by legendary bassist and composer Charles Mingus to an excellent end in the song 'No Water'. The sample really highlights how classy singer Maria Christopher's sultry vocal performance really is, and blends excellently with the highly gated sound of the drum arrangement. I do question making this song the opening number, because it really gives the idea that 27 is a nouveau electronica act in the vein of Supreme Beings of Leisure when nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually, when you listen to any one of these songs in relation to the other songs on the album, none of them really seem to fit together. The country tinged 'Trouble Heart' sounds outrageously out of place against the Enya inspired 'For an Exchange'. Likewise, the 'No Water' sounds like an entirely different band than the one playing 'Cavalla', which has distinct math rock flavor to it. The problem with writing this album off as being unfocused is that all nine of these songs, in all of their diversity are perfectly wonderful in and of themselves. Perhaps the most impressive of all of these is 'Sky Walker', aptly named because of the introduction, which tries very hard to evoke images from Star Wars. As the song progresses, the bass kicks in with tremendous force; it sounds as if its player is letting his palm crash land against the fret board, skidding to a stop at it's final destination. When the chorus arrives, it escalates the piece to a dreamlike state, which is amazing when you take into consideration that a) the chorus contains no words, only a lethargic "whoahhh ahh", and b) the sense of doom is not diminished, it just seems more bearable, and if possible, almost pleasant.

The fact of the matter is that to really enjoy this album you may need to re-think what an album is "supposed" to be. It may help to think of it as more of a mix tape made by the hip indie guy in your Philosophy 101 class, the one who seems as if he may have taken the course a few times before, the one who knows all the answers in class discussions - on the rare occasion that he bothers to come to class, the one who never hands in any assignments. Damn, I really wanted to be that guy... Come to think of it, that guy reminds me a lot of the lone sheep on the cover of Animal Life, or Animal Life the album for that matter; a little strange, a little pretentious, slightly sad, but almost always cool.

- Derrick White

Rating 9 out of 10



Something like a strange cross between Elani Mandell in terms of vocals and Ivy in the music department (the latter just might be an influence, seeing as how the last Ivy album was titled Apartment Life...). 27 is the three-piece Boston band consisting of Maria Christopher (guitar, vocals), Neil Coulon (drums, clarinet), and Ayal Naor (guitar, baritone guitar, sampler). Some folks may remember Ms. Christopher as the vocalist for the Dirt Merchants and Mr. Ayal's involvement in the band Spore. Animal Life consists of slow, soft, heady pop drenched in reverb and characterized by Maria's breathy vocals. The melodies are the key here, as these folks' compositions are much stronger melodically than your average slow, atmospheric pop band. And at least on a few occasions, the band can get downright strange (check out the cool ending to "Undone"). Our favorite cut here is the wonderfully smooth and addictive "9 Mile Burn" downright infectious tune that could give Ivy a run for their money. The album ends with the peculiar strains of "Cavalla"...leaving the listener still hungry for more. Odd in a strangely calming way, 27 is off to a GRAND beginning here... (Rating: 5++)



Three words? Cold, rich songs.

Equal parts lush and raw, 27 dances on a brittle glass skin, a strange smile on its lips. Hips sway, sample-driven landscapes flow backwards through the sky, and songs backstroke from pop to triphop to bedroom lofi. Maria Christopher's milky voice gives sinister clues even as she delivers fuzzy Neil Young rockers like "Trouble Heart"; Portishead warnings lilt and shimmer over "Sky Walker"'s broken filmscore. Animal Life is one of those fine debuts where a band communicates an individual vision, clear-as-crystal, tapping influences while stepping beyond them. It is cold - too cold, I think - but the frigidity is what mesmerises: the lure of the Ice Queen's turkish delight, the magic of frozen fire.

At forty-one minutes, Animal Life feels short. The songs fit together into a compact whole, an opaque gem. Most songs take a similar form - repeated strains of guitar, drums or pipes, and smooth vocals on top. The album, then, relies on the strength of the singer's delivery, and the breadth of the samples involved. On the first count, I give cautious approval. Christopher sounds like a less groovy Skye Edwards (Morcheeba), or a sexier Mary Timony (Helium). Her lyrics are enigmatic whirligigs - "It's a post burn..." (from "Cavalla") - her style intimate. There's a wicked confidence in Christopher's singing, however - a tone of menace that lurks beneath the minor chords - and this is nearly inescapable on Animal Life. Even when things sound harmless, loving - on "Devil's Play", for instance - I can't help but feel Christopher is ready to bite. It's enticing, fascinating, but also a little exhausting: the disk never feels safe, and I would not crawl into its bed.

As for the other sounds, 27 presents a fascinating panorama - from serpent-summoning flutes to electric feedback jams. The trio prefers the understatedness of Slint or Beth Orton to the bombast of the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, and most of the songs stay well clear of the guitar crashing on "Heat Sink". "No Water" takes an unsettling piano sample and pairs it with dark, murmuring background vocals. Sunny brass makes an appearance amidst the understated jingle of "Undone", but when Christopher sings "Oh what a happy day," it feels like a veiled threat. My favourite of the tracks is "Cavalla": a broken, beautiful, lovely-then-noisy song. Its rock'n'roll belly is cut short, cut off, hissed at and smothered in pure white pillows. It's neutralized with a smile, buried alive under camel-shuffle woodblocks, a dusky whistle, long, cool singing.

Animal Life is a difficult album to like. Its landscapes are full of deep blues and fresh greens, but everywhere a chilling wind blows - from hilltops come bitter stares. Once you've learned 27's rules however - once you accept that the love is gone, the knife twist will twist, the warmth is a taunt - the album's rewards outweigh its dangers, the strength of its vision outweighs its sting. (Sean Michaels)


Delusions of Adequacy

Too many bands are proud to recycle their influences; 27 gets instant credit for consciously trying to create some kind of space of their own. Animal Life comes in at just over 40 minutes, and it's a nicely complete thought. The members sound fully comfortable with their skills, to the point of cockiness at times, but that's not really always a drawback. It's nice to hear a self-assured band that is trying to make music that's bigger and smarter than most of what's available and who actually have the skills to do it.

27 is Maria Christopher, Neal Coulon, and Ayal Naor, and Animal Life is their first full-length disc. They build a thoughtful, restrained foundation for Christopher's centerpiece vocals. Their sound is nicely filled-out without getting bogged down; they know what they want to convey and are completely in control of getting it. The sounds help the songs feel fleshed out, and they make sense together. Samples and electronic sounds are used throughout, and they too work consistently well. There really isn't a throwaway piece of instrumentation here. The band works hard at effectively creating and maintaining a smoky, low-light mood. Though it's less moody overall then their previous Songs from the Edge of the Wing EP, their songwriting has continued to progress forward.

"Trouble Heart" ("Busted and broken but at least it's true") features a Paul McCartney-ish bass line that is illustrative of the attention to musical detail that is at work here. As the song builds, Christopher's voice becomes a raspier take on Tanya Donnelly. "Undone" ("Heart misunderstood when you said for good; good I would not say when things turn out this way") with it's beautiful build and slide guitar could have been on Twin Peaks. "Undone" begins the disc's wonderfully strong middle section along with "9 Mile Burn" and "For an Exchange," which features really nice clarinet playing by drummer Neil Coulon. "9 Mile Burn" may be the best song 27 has done. With its circular guitar lines and dreamy lyrics ("Burned right inside my camera, let's stay like this forever, let's stay in my frame and let the light in"), it is the most completely realized song here. It's the high point of the curve and all of the other songs rotate around it. "Devil's Play" ("To and fro this turnpike goes, let's turn these wheels to wings") is a nice piece of Beth Orton-style romanticism.

They seem clearly influenced by Neal Young, not just in some of the more ragged guitar playing but in some of the more plainly stated, heart-bearing lyrics; an element to Young's music that few young bands who claim to be influenced by him have picked up on. At other times, Christopher recalls Aimee Mann's ice-cold stance ("Keep nurturing, nurturing your nature, and naturally your tide keeps on changing" from "No Water"). Her wordplay isn't as cutting as Mann's and doesn't always flow as naturally; she comes across more like a smart hipster than as a natural cynic. Her singing often comes closer to later PJ Harvey without the explosive wail. Animal Life succeeds or fails by Christopher, a gutsy place for her to put herself. Her voice holds together throughout the album, and her personality continues to develop with each listen. It's strange she hasn't achieved more cult recognition; her voice is as strong as most of the leading women in music today, and her lyrics and delivery manage to be emotionally engaging without wearing thin. She can sound soft without being like coffeehouse cellophane ("Undone") and forward without it being a put-on. Naor and Coulon are equally gutsy for being able to support her so well.

For all its strengths, the band never really manages to reach a full emotional catharsis. The songs are all one long, slow burn. They can come across as slightly aloof and unapproachable: the well-dressed cool kids who are always a step ahead. You almost want to hate them, but you can't really help but look up to them. Perhaps 27 is reacting to the glut of bands who only seem to be able to do the obnoxiously aggressive thing, but it would really be nice to hear them let completely loose and see what happens. As it stands, they've created an excellent album that stands up on its own and deserves a much wider audience than it will most likely get.

- Jon



Animal Life, 27's second full-length, defies easy categorization and yet is immediately recognizable as accessible alt-pop in all its mellow glory. Formed in 1999 by Maria Christopher (Dirt Merchants), Ayal Naor (Spore), and Neil Coulon, 27 creates songs that are melodic and airy but resist drifting off into the netherworld of fluff and ethereal emptiness. The album opener, "No Water," calls to mind stripped down Portishead, bumping along on a slow smooth groove of beats. "Sky Walker" further on in the album is made up of similarly swooning, electronic infused soundscapes with flourishes of strings and horns thrown in to create a track that is as beautiful as any Cranes song without the distraction of sugary vocals. Maria Christopher's voice is disarming and soothing, but remains solid like Susan Vega or Mia Doi Todd. Even at her softest, Christopher retains strength, never lapsing into the overly girlie vocals that plague similarly styled female fronted bands. The alternating balance of power between vocals and instruments also helps to assure Animal Life is always firmly rooted. There are swathes of electronic and looped sounds present here and there on the album, but they aren't the full story of 27's sound. The band easily shifts gear to country-tinged guitars on "Trouble Heart" with its wonderfully honky-tonk feel that helps to break up the occasional moodiness of the album. Sometimes the guitars are simply an understated bed for the vocals as on "Undone" or "Heat Sink" they move from tentative strumming to an ever-increasing build up of distorted and drifting chords drawn out by rising drumbeats. "For an Exchange" even twists them into sitar sounding psychedelia that combine with primitive percussion to give the song a mildly eastern tribal taste. The musical frame of the 10-minute finale "Cavalla" encapsulates within one song the collective sound of 27 as it ranges from barely audible skeins of what sounds like a pan flute to Christopher speaking over minimal taps of percussion and plucks of strings to a thick mesh of effects-washed guitars that spill out sliding blues riffs before slowly dropping back to single plucked notes and disappearing. Such shifts in sounds are exemplary of Animal Life's tendency to morph subtly from one song to the next, but the shifts are undertaken with such precision that the ear is never jarred by the transitions; in fact, they are pleasantly surprising. It is this drifting variety in sound and style that allows Animal Life to be compelling without its gentle pace and reserved nature creating an album that is equivalent to an aural sedative. You can never quite know where the music of 27 is going to take you but rest assured it will be a good place. - John Lefler



"Let's go far away from here, let's find another side of the world," chanteuse Maria Christopher coaxes midway through 27's Animal Life. Keep the promise she does - it takes nary a note before one is whisked away into a secret land of gumdrop clouds and pillow fields. From the sound of it, you'd think this three-piece - rounded out by Neil Coulon and Ayal Naor - dwells in the shadows; but then the clarinets and ribbons of chiming guitar rise from the ground. Like a swing, 27 raise you up and take you down with the gentlest of hands. To keep it interesting, though, there are discord-ridden guitar breakdowns here and there, and even a sample of Charles Mingus' "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" (an original choice) channels through the heart of "No Water." But the best instrumentation of all comes with "Sky Walker" (no Star Wars connection guys, sorry): it's there that dramatic, winding strings prove the most transfixing of all. At that point, the toning down of Christopher's vocals and the heightening of the background a notch would be most appreciated. Think Elysian Fields, Luna or the Jetset Records roster in general - it's got that pseudo-sleazy, druggy, jazz-lounge allure to it. If nothing else, pick this one up for the artwork; the sheep-in-Iowa scene on the front is gallery worthy. --Kurt Orzeck


Lost at Sea

After a couple of appearances on compilations, two seven inches and an EP, 27 has released their first full-length, a languorous release defying any preconceived notion you'd have about a band from Boston, two thirds of which consists of an ex-member of the noise-rock band Dirt Merchants (who inked a deal with Sony/Epic) and an ex-member of the heavy-noise band Spore (Taang!).

The music is simple pop that is done well enough to demonstrate a relative complexity. Animal Life is filled with atmospherics and guitars ranging from folky to fuzzy, but what makes the music shine is Maria Christopher's vocals. They are quiet and powerful at the same time, like an old prophet in Greek literature, only contributing at the right moment, never overstepping her bounds, and always making an important impact.

The simple yet powerful dynamics paired with Christopher's soft, wistful vocals makes for a dreamy and beautiful experience, as found on "Undone" and "9 Mile Burn," yet 27 is definitely at its best and most tenacious when things get a little more upbeat in the beginning of Animal Life, with songs like "Trouble Heart," where drums are included, guitars are more twangy and Christopher's vocals are a bit more forceful and gritty. --Jeanette Samyn


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