The stunning electro-pop of Animal Again is the latest opus of singer-songwriter Lindsay Mac. Mac is widely known as the classically trained musician who went rogue and wrote quirky folk that innovatively recast the cello as a pop compositional tool with refreshing tonal capabilities. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based artist is award winning, critically acclaimed, a mainstay on the modern folk tour and festival circuit, and an indie darling among radio programmers. In addition, she’s amassed a fanbase highly attuned to her vibrant artistic continuum.
To the outside, Lindsay Mac’s career has appeared to be about shattering expectations (the cello as a folk rock instrument?!), but, in actuality, she just follows her inner creative directive. Interestingly, with Animal Again, she may be her boldest and most accessible yet. The album is pure blissful synth-pop with very little cello. “Even though the cello is virtually absent here, it ironically feels closer to the symphonies I grew up playing in than anything else I’ve done. It has that swirling and lushness that really brings me back,” she explains.
Seeds of the project date back to when Mac was in physical therapy, rehabilitating from a back injury. She found herself motivated and inspired by the pop music playing over the gym’s stereo. “I wanted my own music to be a physical experience again – to emulate that feeling where it just seeps into your body and you feel it in your chest.” Unable to play the cello comfortably, Mac built a stand-up computer workstation and found herself composing on the Garage Band software platform, warming up to its band-in-a-box capabilities. Soon, she began to craft synth-y beats and melodies that evoked the elegant simplicity of Ellie Goulding, Sara Bareilles, Sia, Washed Out, and the songwriting smarts and production of Dr. Luke and Ryan Tedder.
The sublime release encompasses sugar rush EDM (“Remember”, “Music Is My Lover”), stately mid-tempo pop (“Back To Right”), 80s-inspired (“Wolf”), and hauntingly atmospheric chillwave (“Animal Again”). The musical motifs throughout are little jewels that develop and intertwine like succinct classical compositions, and the beats are dance floor-ready but also melodically supportive. Previously, Mac the singer and lyricist shared the spotlight with Mac the cellist, but here her voice and uplifting lyrics command center stage. Her vocal range and dynamic nuances are a revelation, stretching from breathy and sensual to richly soulful. Because of the album’s roots in healing, Animal Again’s lyrics are among Mac’s most uplifting and empowering. “Many of the songs are about conquering your fears, living your dreams, and rising up,” she says. “I want to make people feel joy, and feel alive.”
Mac has been working with producer J Declan since they both were students at Berklee College of Music. The two had similar roots in traditional musicality, Declan’s instrument was the banjo, but Declan moved into the EDM realm earlier. Now, with Animal Again, the two benefit from their parallel and intersecting aesthetic journeys with tracks that are musically rich but also succinctly pop.
With so much written about her unique approach to cello and her distinct modern folk aesthetic, it’s brave to step out of the shadow of the cello with the sweet electro-pop of Animal Again. “This time the songs, the voice, and the production are out front,” Mac allows before pausing. “But really, for me, it’s always just been about how the music makes me feel and recreating the colors I hear in my head."