Much has been made of Athlete and the timeless quality of their sound, which put them at odds with a lot of what passes for popular in the British mainstream. Their songwriting was acknowledged with a nomination for the heralded Mercury Music Prize, but for a band that regularly draws comparisons to Beta Band and Pavement, Vehicles & Animals
is all too pedestrian. While it's warm and sunny and quirky and (occasionally) interesting, Athlete's sound remains oddly out of place. Imagine Starsailor playing "Summer Babe (Winter Version)" or "The Hex" -- that's right. It's still worth a listen, though, because many people will surely be drawn to precisely the middle-of-the-road quality that perplexes me.
"Shake Those Windows" is the brightest spot -- a slow, downtrodden ballad with sparse instrumentation that shifts through a warm instrumental coda into a wonderful vision of nostalgia. It maintains a deliberate beat, then bounds further into sunshiny territory with a bouncing synthesizer melody and a sing-along refrain that recalls the very best from Coldplay ("Just let the record play / and bring it back again / You can't appreciate what we were into then / Just let yourself go").