It really takes little effort when listening to the debut album Animal Behavior by Lia Menaker to figure out she that she is an immense talent. She is a singer/songwriter with roots in folk, rock and blues and can bear comparisons to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and arguably Joni Mitchell. There is some nice ornamentation on the album that comes in the form of guitar, bass and drums but there is little denying that her piano playing and vocals is the anchor that holds it all down.
She showcases her pipes in dynamic fashion throughout the entire album. I emphasize the word dynamic in that sentence. There is so much range and depth in her singing that it simply enriches the experience. She can sing - I don’t think anyone can dispute that but she is also an exceptional pianist. You don’t need to listen past the first song to come to this realization.
The first song “Holding Your Space” seamlessly transitions BPM and she handles it with ease. It starts off fast with impressive piano playing as she sings, “The sheets are off balance; the bed is a cave, Until I hold you I’ll be holding your space. My hands are too cold and my head feels misplaced, I’m fine and all – not like I’m losing my pace. I’m just an empty case without you.”
The next track “Dreams Speak” is nostalgic and melancholy. She sounds good when taking her time to form the words she sings. “Instinct” is the first fleshed out song that comes at you with slick guitar and bass playing. It was a nice change in atmosphere after the first two songs, which are sparse. The additional instrumentation never steps on her toes and merely complements her singing and piano.
As the album progresses I can say that there weren't any songs that felt like duds. That being said they were a couple that stood out. The title track “Animal Behavior” is a bit exotic sounding and contained one of the most infectious vocal melodies when she sings, “Animal behavior. Following what’s written in our genes.” ”Bones (feat. Broken Darling)” does a decent amount of unexpected rocking while “Between The Bars” (not the Elliott Smith song) had a saloon type quality.
As much as I enjoyed this album I still think it is rather esoteric in that if you aren’t a fan of singer/songwriter types like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple then Animal Behavior probably won’t move the needle for you. Overall, this album gets two thumbs way up and comes highly recommended.
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