What an absolute blast of a year it’s been for Animal Collective. ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, the band’s ninth album, and a masterpiece in pysch-pop, was lauded across the board, and commercial success followed as they broke through into the mainstream. As is par for the course with such overdue success, cries of ‘sell-outs!’ emanated from the fan community, as well as hysterical reactions from those who loved it (‘MPP’ is an album that was being heralded as album of 2009 before the year even started, remember). For the record, DIY loved it.
However, Animal Collective have never been a band to rest on their laurels. They could have milked ‘Merriweather’ for all it was worth. Crucially, they didn’t. Instead, they continued a tradition that’s been ongoing since 2005, and released a some new material in the wake of the LP. This time ‘round, the sessions have resulted in ‘Fall Be Kind’. If we were to compare the sound of this release to previous Collective output, we would say that this is like 2005’s ‘Feels’ being redone with ‘Merriweather’’s equipment.
The band somehow manage to top ‘In The Flowers’, a song that is in itself one of the album openers of the year, with the majestic ‘Graze’. In an opening that is purpose-built to send shivers down spines, Avey Tare’s vocals float above delicate strings: ‘Let me begin / It feels good ‘cause it’s early / Please open my eyes to let light in’. It moves into darker territory with the entry of piano, before a most unexpected change. Everything fades away save for a gentle rhythm, then a pan-flute comes in. Wow. Only Animal Collective. The harmony that enters later on is typical of the band. Easily one of their best songs of the last few years.
They’ve held on to their new-found pop sensibilities. That much is clear from second track ‘What Would I Want? Sky’ (the one with the Grateful Dead sample). Its atmospheric opening gives way to a joyous three-minute pop song. Once again, you sense that the band are packing the EP with only the best of the ‘Merriweather’ leftovers; not a second is wasted here.
2009 may find the trio in a more accessible mood, but they haven’t forsaken their roots by a long shot. The EP’s remaining three tracks serve as a reminder of this. ‘Bleed’’s melody is simple yet highly effective, the foundation for a gloriously dark song. ‘On A Highway’ is the band’s most human song yet: a song about the touring lifestyle, filled with vivid imagery.
Things are brought to a close with the stunning ‘I Think I Can’, the song here that most recalls the group’s earlier work, driven by percussion and clashing vocals. It soon ventures into more melodic territory with a fantastic synth line. ‘Will I get to move on soon? I think I can’ - a line that hints at the way this band always look to the future? Perhaps. It would seem that some ideas are brewing for the next decade already. A ‘visual album”s planned for 2010. We say, bring it on.
Records & Merch
Listen to lead track ‘Crucible’ now.
Courtney Barnett, Animal Collective, Faye Webster and more to play London’s Pitchfork Music Festival
Big Joanie, Girlpool, and Michelle are also among the names announced.
Animal Collective - Time Skiffs
For some, this might be too tame. An album full of ‘Bluish’ rather than ‘Fireworks’. But for others, that means it’s the most accessible.
Their new album, ‘Time Skiffs’, lands this week.