Animal Flag's EP2 on cassette. 80 smokey tint tapes.
Indie folk rock brings to mind a lot of acoustics and “hey!”s nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case. In the ’90s and early aughts, the line between what was folk and what was straight up indie rock was blurred by bands like Bright Eyes and songwriters like Elliot Smith. It’s from this musical well that Matt Politoski drank during his youth in Upstate New York, and it’s that influence that he brought with him to Boston’s famous Berklee College of Music. It’s there that he recorded and released his 2012 debut as Animal Flag, the aptly titled EP 1.
But like the sound of folk over the years, Animal Flag too began to morph. Politoski expanded the project by adding drummer Alex Pickert, guitarist Sai Boddupalli, and bassist Zach Weeks. With a full band now behind the moniker, they set to work writing and recording a new group of songs to showcase what Animal Flag had become. The resulting effort, EP 2, demonstrates a darker, heavier sound, but also one that has aggressively matured and expanded.
Coming from Broken World Media/1997 Recordings, the five-track EP 2 is a new beginning for Animal Flag. It opens with the moody “Jealous Lover”, a track that feels more like The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me-era Brand New than Bright Eyes with its haunted guitars and startled drums leading into the ballsy second half. But even there, Politoski’s penchant for Conor Oberstian lyricism is as apparent as it is on cuts like “Angels” and “Wayside”. Structurally, the songs borrow equally from spiraling prog-rock and emotionally cored bands of the indie folk scene of yore. There are sudden outbursts that don’t come at the behest of a chorus, shifts in sonic texture occurring as naturally as a breeze rustling fallen leaves, never more apparent than on the stirring 10-minute epic of “Cathedrals”. For Politoski, though, the most powerful moment on the EP may be the final one, “Prone”.
“‘Cathedrals’ and ‘Prone’ are the two tracks that had the biggest effect on me in terms of both my artistry and my personal life,” Politoski tells Consequence of Sound. “Learned a lot about myself writing those. Prone actually sparked one of the biggest mental paradigm shifts I’ve ever experienced in my life.” He adds, “These songs have been with me for a really long time. One of them I wrote 5 years ago. It’s a great feeling to finally put them out… For me the EP is kind of the first step in the right direction for this band.”