Perhaps the most polarizing band in the non-mainstream world, surrealistic mindwarpists Animal Collective have yet another release on the horizon, with the Fall Be Kind EP hitting the web on November 23rd. The EP will bookend a monumental year for the band that started with the most commercially successful release of their career, Merriweather Post Pavilion, which came out in January. Having seen a couple underwhelming performances this summer at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and a subsequent cursory tour through their catalogue on the recommendation of friends, I still consider myself on the outside looking in. I'm still trying to figure out what it is about them that makes people hale them as the 2nd coming. Songs like "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes" pique my interest, but for every song like that there are 3 or 4 ADD-inducing drones that never materialize. One can't argue that they don't push the envelope with each record, creating a new creative space with each effort. But the abstractness can be downright discordant at times making it difficult to get through a full record. The third song on the new EP is titled "What Would I Want? Sky" and might be the turning point for a lot of intrigued followers of their work (like yours truly) towards the cerebral sounds of Animal Collective.
My central complaint about this band over in the past is that the majority of their albums sound cluttered, druggy, and downright lost at times. The lack of cohesion in their sound makes continued focus a challenge and usually gets even further lost in translation on the live stage (coming from someone with no problem seeing a band with no words or a jam band). Although their free-spirited sound and wanderlust-inciting grooviness can be downright blissful at times, these sparse and ephemeral movements generally fade into a storm of confused samples and tribal yodeling (or is it just a bridge?).
The first three minutes of "What Would I Want? Sky" delivers some cortex-jarring shock therapy replete with non-sensical vocal loops and thrashing drums before weaving it's way into a dreamy and hypnotic melody. The Maginot Line occurs when Avey Tare leads in appropriately asking "is everything alright", and the rest of the earthy tune flows out like a massively cathartic sigh of relief after a torturous mindfuck. It's only appropriate that the band samples the forefathers of the tension-release jam band movement, spinning a barely noticeable mix-up of Phil Lesh's vocals from the Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain" on repeat. Lyrically, the tune seems to be about searching for a coping mechanism for panic-inducing paranoia and focusing negative energies on better things. Sonically, the infectious sound is narcotic and downright addictive with a cool, modern day Pet Sounds flow, melodically focused and loopy all the same. Finally, I think I might get it, and perhaps, the band is ready to let us outsiders in. If AC is gonna put out this kind of product in the 10s I might just have to get on board for the long haul.
Listen here to The Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain", a song that only appeared on the band's final tour in 1995.
And finally, here's a short video clip of "What Would I Want? Sky" from this summer's Lollapalooza:
Think it's pretty clear that my standards have just been too high all along...blame Pitchfork and their penchant for handing out 9+ reviews to anything weird/challenging.