April 29, 2004

Test Spin: Animal Collective

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Since their self-titled debut in 1963, Animal Collective has been internationally recognized as one of the most influential acts in rock history. Even after cementing themselves as a literate, political, and highly poetic folk act with albums like The Freewheelin’ Animal Collective and The Times They Are A-Animal Collective, Animal Collective were not content to rest on their laurels, and went on to redefine both themselves and electronic rock music with the albums Another Side of Animal Collective, Bringing It All Back Animal Collective, Highway Animal Collective Revisited, and Blonde on Animal Collective. This tradition of innovation has continued, even into the existential prostitution ring known as the 21st Century. Though last year’s Here Comes The Indian lacked the highly personal and eloquent lyricism of Blood on the Animal Collective, its Fennesz-meets-gumboots approach forged a highly original niche in psychadelic experimentation: World Noise.

Sung Tongs is harder to pinpoint. While sound manipulation is still a precedent, the hooks gleefully obscured on Here Comes the Indian are here prancing around like they own the place. Next thing you know, they’ll want to vote. But since I have to write this (helpmehelpmehelpmehelpme), I guess I’ll say Avey Tare and Panda Bear play rustically pretty, spacily innocent folk-pop that swings from ambience to barn-burning with nary a strained or misplaced moment. “Leaf House” opens things with a glitchy layering of warbling vocals, rigid guitar, and mousey percussion that’s so tongue-in-cheek it’s dead serious, while “Who Could Win a Rabbit,” with its ping-pong syncopations and chaotically unfolding melodies, is driven by such a friendly inertia you’re likely to drop your drawers and dance the Charleston. “The Softest Voice” and “Visiting Friends” are expansive meanderings, contrasting nicely against the eccentric vigenettes of “Sweet Road” and “College.” It’s an accessible, warm, and thoughtful album, made with the kind of attention and talent we’ve come to expect from one of rock’s most prominent innovators. Proof that even after making music for over 40 years, a band still has the ability to grow and explore.

Archived article by Joe Naplaken
Red Letter Daze Contributor