Sound Choices: Bands named after animals

Alex Schaaf

People like making lists. More specifically, I like making lists. Sure, they can be insultingly irrelevant – who cares whether someone else likes one thing more than the other? But sometimes, when faced with the never-ending stream of music out there, it helps to give it some order, to try and make some sense out of it all.
With that in mind, I’d like to present a strikingly unimportant list this week. After noticing a trend in my music listening habits, I decided to go through my iTunes and pick out every band whose name referenced an animal.
And then rank them, by how well the music corresponds to the animal. Why take on such a pointless and meaningless project, you ask? And I answer, why not?
1. Andrew Bird: This is kind of the exception to the list, since “Bird” is his real last name, and not a chosen one, but the resemblance is too striking to be ignored. His last name is Bird. He whistles. His whistling sounds like a bird. Whistling is a big part of his music. He sings about animals and nature. This is clearly a case of destiny. 9.82
2. Animal Collective/Panda Bear: The group that started this project. The music evokes the natural wildness of the animal kingdom more than any other group. They even used to wear masks and face paint, and run around yelping and screaming. Panda Bear is a member of Animal Collective, and has his own solo albums, and so I include him as well. 8.76
3. Wolf Parade: The wolf is a rather threatening animal, and this band definitely lives up to its namesake most of the time. Perhaps the most “rock” group out of all of these, Wolf Parade is a near super-group made up of a “parade” of terrific songwriters who know how to bring the rambunctious rock. Dan Boeckner’s howl is pretty unmistakable as well, so this is a pretty accurate name in my opinion. 8.75
4. Grizzly Bear: I wouldn’t exactly say that the music of Grizzly Bear reminds me of an actual grizzly bear. Then again, I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. Ed Droste and company create beautiful, textural soundscapes that move by at relatively slow tempos, sometimes emerging out of the haze to give you a more upbeat attack – like … a grizzly bear. The question is, who would win in a showdown – the grizzly bear or the panda? 6.92
5. Modest Mouse: I follow up the most threatening-sounding group with perhaps the weakest. Show me someone who is afraid of a modest mouse, and I’ll admit my mistake, but it is clear that Modest Mouse was not going for glory when the band decided on the animal to give it its name. But clearly, Modest Mouse is a bit more upbeat than your typical modest mouse, so this one is low on the list. 4.77
6. The Beatles: Yes, I went there. A beatle is not an animal, but a beetle is, and it’s close enough. I’m not quite sure how The Beatles decided on a name, but clearly it has stuck. This is the example I always use when defending a possible band name – “Yeah it sounds stupid now, but I bet ‘The Beatles’ sounded stupid before they became famous.” I struggle to find a parallel between the name and the music, except that the beetle is the animal with the most number of species, and The Beatles is the band with the most number of imitators, the band that has influenced more bands than any other. So there, I tried. 3.21