All Tiny Creatures
It's tempting to dwell on the guest vocalists on the latest All Tiny Creatures album, "Harbors". After all, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and the Caribbean's Matthew Byars, who provide vocals on the swirling "An Iris", certainly add a dreamy vibe to the Wisconsin quartet's previously instrumental sound.
But the vocals (and the list of recognizable contributors) aren't what make this album such an intriguing listen. All Tiny Creatures mainstay Thomas Wincek and his bandmates create a stunning atmosphere, from the shimmering (and evocatively titled) "Glass Bubbles" to the subtle drive of album-closer "Plankton March". The band even introduces hints of glitchy tension on "Aviation Class" without disrupting the otherwise atmospheric vibe.
At times, "Harbors" is reminiscent of other indie bands. "Cargo Maps" features a tribal pulsing energy that recalls Animal Collective, while "Triangle Frog" is a spaciously cinematic reverie a la Explosions in the Sky. But at no point does All Tiny Creatures seem derivative. The band instead takes the listener on a pensive stroll, laying a vivid instrumental tapestry that is complemented — not overshadowed — by the group's numerous guest vocalists.
-- Catherine P. Lewis