Originally released last year in Athlete's native England, "Vehicles and Animals" garnered highbrow notice when it was nominated for the elusive Mercury Music Prize. Such forward-looking attention is appropriate, as all of the trappings are here: bizarre mood shifts, Badly Drawn pedestrian folk and straightforward piano balladry. "Vehicles" pulls its eloquent mission like clockwork, tripping through what might at first appear to be standard Britpop, but closer listens reveal a certain timelessness, especially by the time you hit "You Got the Style," an irreverent sociological celebration impeccably delivered as a down-key Joe Jackson sendup. It's a deceptively simple album, but with enough rewarding subtext to warrant repeated listening.
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