Ex Friends - Animal Needs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Ex Friends

Animal Needs (2014)

Coolidge Records

Maybe it's just because the release of their full-length debut Rules For Making Up Words was so stretched out, but Ex Friends seem to be burning with ideas lately. Rules has only been around for a few months (physically anyway), and the band is already back with a new 7" entitled Animal Needs. The band sounds more confident than ever before, or maybe just more comfortable with each other. Either way, it's the strongest collection of pop punk tunes they've dropped yet.

Bassist Audrey Crash takes the mic on opener "Don't Do It Like That (Do It Like This)" to sing about how oppressing constant change can feel. The song has a bouncy guitar hook and a catchy, shouty chorus. It's the jam despite that whole feeling that "evolving means leaving people behind" thing. Frontman and lyricist Joel Tannenbaum recently got his Ph.D in History, and Animal Needs deals a lot with the divide between heady philosophy and dirty reality. Sometimes it's literal; "Real Life" makes its intentions pretty clear with its opening lines of "I've got some sad ideas about living and some about dying too / Although they're fairly unforgiving, I think they might be true."

But that track is also followed by "Word Police," a curt, comedic reminder that sometimes people overthink things. This is still punk after all, so it's not surprising that Animal Needs asks people to think for themselves. But that they can do it while shouting "Shut the fuck up" at authority only once in four songs is a twist for sure.

Musically, the EP adds some new flavor. Crash's violin splashes in the background of "Real Life." Guest Aino Soderhiela drops some saxophone into closer "Fadeage (City Inspector)." Ex Friends haven't reinvented their sound here, but they've been together long enough to really make use of their chemistry. Never content to settle for that, though, they're already switching their dynamic up again. Animal Needs marks their last release as a four-piece, as guitarist Leta Gray has recently joined the group.