The discography of American iconic singer-songritwer Mark Lanegan has become so full of different and heterogenous entries that there is a specific page on Wikipedia that is dedicated to report all of his releases and appearances, which include many solo albums, a bunch of EPs and a vastity of collaborations with other bands and musicians. As part of this large number of collaborations, in 2013 Lanegan released an interesting record with the English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood. The album, called Black Pudding, received however mixed reactions from the public and the critics, partly due to the absolutely secondary role that was given to Gardwood (unlike the most successful and definitely more “balanced” collaboration with Isobel Campbell) , but also because Black Pudding, in the end, resulted as an extremely monochromatic and predictable album, with Lanegan anchored to his consolidated formula of dark and bluesy folk.
Five years after Black Pudding, Lanegan and Darkwood have released a second collaborative effort, named With Animals, and it’s clear from the very first songs of the new album that the harmony and the spiritual connection between the two has largely improved. For the casual listener this album could appear quite similar to the last few works by Lanegan, but this is not true if you go beyond the surface.
With Animals is a solid and inspired album, where all the songs are linked and correlated by a sort of spiritual connection, something which makes you feel like venturing into the darkest and most disturbing areas of your inner self. Darkness, restlessness, impotence. These are the feelings that emerge when you listen to the songs of With Animals, and in this case we can finally say that such stong emotional charge doesn’t come only from the raspy and baritone voice of Lanegan, but it derives also from a stronger contribution by Darkwood and his hypnotic guitar loops. The music, in many moments of the album, reaches peaks of absolute beauty and in a few rare cases it takes also the lead.
Of course, I also would have liked a little more courage to explore new directions and to experiment with new musical languages, but we’re definitely on the right track. And if you’re not discouraged by the minimal arrangements, the slow rhythms and the dark and oppressive atmospheres, this album can be definitely a valuable companion to your moments of reflection and relax.
With Animals is available for streaming on Spotify.
My favorite songs from the album are L.A. Blue, My Shadow Life, Desert Song and the title-track With Animals.