Challenging but appealing Psychedelic Pop from Animal Collective
Animal Collective is a band out of Baltimore, MD that consists of Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). Their music is not for the faint of heart. They play way, way outside and although the songs are often beautiful, they can be very challenging. Their music typically features keyboards that are often the most disciplined instrument, atmospheric guitars and other affects, and meandering vocals that frequently wander up into falsetto. These are not Pop songs. Well, maybe they are Psychedelic Pop songs. The Wikipedia article on Psychedelic Pop includes them along with accessible, mainstream acts like The Shins, MGMT, and The Polyphonic Spree. Animal Collective isn’t really cut from the same cloth, though.
So after all those caveats and warnings, let me say I really like Animal Collective. I don’t like every song I’ve heard, but I really enjoy a lot of what they’ve done. For all its weirdness, their music is usually melodic and appealing. The guys are talented on their instruments and play them fearlessly. It’s a potent combination that has led to some very interesting sounds over the years. Today, I’m going to recommend a few tracks from a couple of late releases. They have put out 8 releases to date, though not always with the same lineup. A CD credited to Animal Collective might feature any or all of their members so there is a lot of variability in the music.
First, a couple tracks from “Feels,” released in October of 2005.
- Did You See the Words – This track is unorthodox, but still pretty accessible. Piano, drums, and guitars are used for traditional purposes. The melody is also catchy, if a bit strange. I suppose, though, that the strangeness is a lot of the appeal to me. It doesn’t sound like anything else I own, but it rocks out a bit before dissolving to a finish.
- Bees – The singer meanders through this ethereal tune, backed by noodling piano and what I think must be autoharp. The song never really goes anywhere, but it’s a beautiful composition.
These three are from their 2007 release, “Strawberry Jam.” If you thought ‘Bees’ was weird, have a seat.
- Derek – I am reminded of some joyful African folk song, though after the first half of the song, more instruments kick in. The melody remains the same, but the song sounds bigger. As for this video, live footage, studio audio.
- Cuckoo Cuckoo – The feel of this track is dreamy, but I’m not altogether sure it’s a good dream. I couldn’t assign a time signature to this song, though I suppose it can be counted in 4/4. Moments of quiet piano are punctuated by spikes of punching, chaotic percussion and wailing and warbling vocals. I can’t explain why I like this song.
- #1 – A descending keyboard arpeggio is the basis of this song, behind which an incomprehensible poem is chanted with accompanying singing voices and clicking percussion. This song is entirely experimental but it reaches me. What can I say? I have listened to a lot of cutting edge New Age music for a long time and this closer to that than any Pop music.
Apparently, Animal Collective is working on a new album that will be released in conjunction with a film. The film is to feature abstract visuals and some live action footage to accompany their music, which the band claims is some of the most experimental stuff they’ve ever done. The film has been submitted to the Sundance Festival and they would like to see it shown in movie theaters before it is eventually released on DVD. If that happens, I may invest in some LSD futures, because I have a hunch psychedelic drug sales would spike.
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