this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Animal Collective Record

I thought I should muster a response to Honez's post about Merriweather Post Pavilion.

I downloaded the record a few days before it was released and went with a bunch of friends to listen to it in a semi-abandoned barn/storage structure in middle of nowhere East Austin. It was a great experience, and since then I have listened to the record in full several times with close friends and also a good deal on my own.

There is a lot of hype about this record. It's been a long time in the making, has been displayed in different forms live, and a few songs leaked months ago to the dismay of the group. The critical reception has been shining and although this record might boost the font size of Animal Collective on the flyer of the next large festival they play, it isn't going to "break them", and if it does introduce them to a larger audience, well, that's just a natural progression for a band that's been around for 10 years.

But this hype isn't really important to me in any sense other than it made me excited for the record. What kind of drew me to write this was the statement in Honez's post about this arguably being their least inventive record. It's an apt observation, and I can see how you could come to that conclusion and I might even agree with it, but the thing is, I don't find it important to my enjoyment of the album in the least. It's simply not what I'm listening for at this point.

Since their first release in 2000, Animal Collective have put out nine full length records and three EPs, plus solo-stuff and small pressing releases. There are one or two of those records that I haven't listened to, but I have a pretty firm grasp of their sound and how it has evolved. There is the noise and there is the pop and there are the electronics and there is the drone and the tribal/world element and there is the live improvisation that coalesces all these elements and allows them to fuse together and grow in different directions.

It isn't their most inventive record, but at this point I'm not really looking for inventive records from these guys, I'm looking for them to take this pastiche of dichotomous elements and craft perfect songs. They've outgrown the balancing act that held Here Comes the Indian together on a thin string. They've harnessed the sing-along drone and repetition of Campfire Songs. They've gathered the tongue in hand pop ambitions of Sung Tongs and and infused them with the textural elements that made Strawberry Jam a thick and demanding listen.

So to actually talk about the music.

Brothersport, the album's closer, was the first song to leak. It raised my hopes for the album pretty high. I feel like it's the best song they've ever written. The dynamics shift constantly over six minutes, starting as a bouncy synth bass sing-a-long with chanting harmonies and vocal reverb trails. The beat builds with with an insect-chirping electronic melody and stomping/shaking percussion. The electronic melody continues throughout the entire song, but evolves into a phasing drone a la Steve Reich. Frantic vocal samples pan left and right as the drums re-enter and we're in delay-jam mode, enjoying the repetition. Then the dense delay thins and you're confronted new graceful piano line and that initial vocal melody, which you're forced to realize is completely beautiful.

I say Brothersport is the best song on the record, but it isn't my favorite anymore. Summertime Clothes is kinda my jam. The slow attack on the initial synthesizer melody gives a rolling sensation when contrasted with the steady bass drum and straight-forward vocal rhythms. It gets my head nodding in an uncontrollable fashion and I just want to stomp my foot. The narrative lyrics add a pacing and progression that is different from most other Animal Collective songs, another guide through the disjointed rhythm created by the synthesizer's attack. Then on the chorus, a howling reverbed pitch accompanies the somewhat sappy lyric "I want to walk around with you," which I'll be honest, I'm a complete sucker for.

Each of these songs deserves it's own paragraph, not because they're the best songs that Animal Collective have ever written, but because I would say they are all masterfully crafted. They've managed to organize the ideas on the record with remarkable clarity, and although the sound might not be a projection towards five years in the future, it captures the band's last five years and shows that they've matured enough to know that little steps forward might have the largest payoff as they progress as a band.

P.S. Does anybody know how to do jump-cuts in HTML so that only like the first three paragraphs of a post show up and there is a link to the rest? As the blog is growing, these 800 word posts need a bit of a cage.


  1. Yeah it's a good'un, I won't deny that. Maybe I should just put down my front and soak it in... To tell you the truth, I never even listened to Strawberry Jam that much either. Perhaps that would have eased me into this record a bit more? But I am gonna stand by my original point and say that the first thing that fascinated me was the noise/pop dichotomy that they handled so gracefully. I just miss that is all.

    And I promise I'd have used that jump-cut move if I knew how. Good idea, haha. Hey, if you find out how to do it, teach me, vice versa I'll do it for you...

  2. JUMP CUTS THING: I think you're gonna have to do this, or whoever is the admin

  3. this is the best album review ive read in a long time. well done dude. i think all your thoughts are spot on and the critiques are super validated.

    this is my first time reading your blog....saw a link of i will be back for sure.