If you’re looking to get into local music, then Animal Mood’s got you covered. The Corpus Christi natives steadily released single after single over the course of 2023, eventually culminating in a much larger release. Right before the year’s closure, Dec. 29 to be exact, the four-piece act released a self-titled EP. Clocking in with six songs under its belt, allow me to tell you about all six of them.
Kicking off the EP is “Always Something,” which plays into the band’s proclivity for the vintage. And by plays into, I mean it holds on to it and never lets go. The three-chord progressions in the verses and three-part harmonies in the choruses remind me of ’60s psychedelic and garage rock bands (for reference, listen to State of Mind’s “Move.” That oughta give you an idea of what I’m being reminded of).
For a city that lays heavy claim to metal subgenres and tribute acts, a reference to garage rock is a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with serrated, drop-tuned guitars and curated flavors of screaming vocals. But there’s also a lot of good in the lightly crunchy guitars and cleanly-sung, disillusion-laden lyrics in “Always Something.” If this portends the rest of the EP, then let me tell you, I’m going to enjoy this record a lot.
‘YOU’VE GOT A HOLD ON ME’
The project’s second song has the longest name of all six, though ironically it has the shortest run time. On top of that, this is one of three songs to have been released as a single.
If anybody’s getting their flowers on this track, I’d give them to drummer Joshua Hurtado. His playing here gives “You’ve Got a Hold” a sense of urgency that sets it apart from the song before. Combined with front man Jose Del Toro’s longing lyrics, you’ve got a recipe for a good old-fashioned love song!
It’s not just the drums that play well here, though. Del Toro and fellow guitarist/singer Ryan Rodriguez’s performances are equally spirited here as they were on “Always Something.” That being said, the reverb-laden harmonies scratch a completely different itch this time around.
On the third track, the band strays from the previously established vintage sounds and move toward a more modern direction. Del Toro’s vibrato-laden singing and the suave mid-tempo guitars on “Naturally” set the track to a modern indie rock mode. That mode gets solidified on the chorus (“from the top of my lungs…”) and its wide-open dynamics.
I noticed a great deal of space the band deals in this song, whether it between verses or in the aforementioned chorus. In short, the band plays with strumming less in some parts and I’d say it works. This is the listener’s chance to breathe after the driving rhythm of “You’ve Got A Hold On Me,” and that chance isn’t going away anytime soon.
It’s not just one song that stews for a longer time. “Lady” gets a bit more sensitive, and the stripped-down sound here reflects that. The lighter guitar work is offset by Jose’s strongest vocal delivery yet, and bassist Joshua De Leon is doing some heavy lifting as well. From the start, his playing sets the tone for the whole song. On top of that, his interplay with the band shines as well, making room for the guitars to shine and t
I’m going to come right and say it: This is my favorite song on the EP. This song is raucous, the story is super cohesive, and the members are firing on all cylinders. “Cannibal Girl” plays with the quiet-loud dynamics present on the chill songs while bringing in the frantic energy of the faster ones.
This is also where I’ll bring up my first criticisms of the record. While Animal Mood has been playing with the volume, “Cannibal Girl” needs a shake-up in the vocal department, which is ultimately never delivered. Surely a song about a fiendish partner physically tearing you to shreds ought to be delivered differently than a song swooning over them, right? The vocals deliver a sense of tension that the guitar don’t back up.
Speaking more on the energy, the chords and subject matter ultimately reminded me of another genre I haven’t yet heard in Animal Mood’s catalog: psychobilly. In short, artists like The Cramps and The Reverend Horton Heat. The sound of ’50s rockabilly with the volume turned up to 10 with debaucherous lyrics filling the frame.
‘WHEN THE SUN SETS’
We’ve now reached the last song, and the longest one at that. It’s a somber song as well, featuring the mellowed parts of Animal Mood’s sound heavily. Twinkling chords and harmonies, along with a nimble rhythm section bring a tasteful adaptation of what I’ve heard from this project.
And things would’ve stayed that way had the band not changed up the song on me. Towards the last minute or so, the band revs up the tempo and brings the thunder as well. Not just in the form of chopping chords but because of the solos. That last minute alone, the band changing everything up without losing the plot, earns “When The Sun Sets” its nearly five-minute run tine.
Animal Mood’s self-titled EP gives glimpses to past rock sounds though a modern lens. Songs like “Always Something” and “Cannibal Girl” harken back to the ’60s, continuing a long-standing tradition of Texas and garage rock. “You’ve Got A Hold On Me” and “Naturally” slow the pace down and play closer to the indie rock camp than anything else, a sound that the band plays well. As for “Lady” and “When The Sun Sets,” they’re very chilled out songs that brings their noticeably indie sound at a glacial pace.
I’m giving this project a solid 8 and a half. With that styles are present, the band does well. The interplay is present, and their penchant for flipping the script keeps the music fresh. That being said, there are parts where intensity is brought, though an extra twinge of it would be appreciated. The band’s understanding to give and take back that energy is remarkable. Overall, it’s a worthwhile listen that shines a light on the lightly-distorted sides of the Corpus Christi music scene.
You can find Animal Mood’s debut EP, “Animal Mood,” on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music.