Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

Download: Animal Collective - "Peacebone"
Download: Animal Collective- "Chores"

Animal Collective
Strawberry Jam (Domino, 2007)
Grade: A

So no one on this blog has said much about Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam yet. I was going to post something about it back when it would be, you know, relevant and all that. However, due to a very unfortunate two weeks, the album is just coming into my possession.

And it's fantastic.

Mark your calendars, dear readers, because this is one of the rare days that I actually like something. A lot.

Fellow MFRer Pete Farrell, our co-worker and I were talking yesterday. Pete remarked that the Animal Collective write songs that sound like campfire sing-alongs on acid. Agreed. The swaying, drunken swagger that most Animal Collective songs have a has always been one of my favorite things about them. I love mayhem, and Strawberry Jam has loads of it.

I've always found it hard to talk about Animal Collective in terms of over-arching sound and style. I don't know if they're about that as a band. Their core instrumentation is built of repetitive guitar parts that have enough jangle and bounce to them so that they keep moving. But really, it's always the little flourishes that make the song. The well-timed spoon sound on the second verse of "Winter Wonder Land," the little '70's sci-fi keyboard clip at the beginning of "#1" and the intermittent whistle in "Peacebone" are the types of sounds that build this album. It's shambolic and cluttered, but we can still find something to grasp on to underneath it all.

Panda Bear has always been a great singer, but I think the Avey moments define the vocals on this record. I know he enrages some people, because I guess his voice sucks or something, but he's like the Matt Sharp of Animal Collective. A falsetto shriek here and there is like the punctuation in an e.e. cummings poem: Panda Bear yodels on and drags this way and that, and I really do think that if it wasn't for Avey bustin' on in, Animal Collective songs – on all their records, not just Jam – would lose a lot of forward momentum. His vox mark ends where ends need to be marked, stresses stretches of song that need stressing and I appreciate that.

The funny thing is, I looked at some reviews on other sites after writing this, and Pitchfork really like Avey on this record, too. Is this the coming of the Avey Empire? Yes. Yes it is.

The bottom line is that Strawberry Jam is a phenomenal record. It has the perfect blend of momentum, songwriting and unpredictable little flourishes and perfect little moments.

Now, maybe it's the fact that I can count the amount of sleep I've gotten in the past 3 days on one hand, but stay tuned for another rare "April Wright Loves Something Moment," because Iron & Wine have a pretty damn good new album out.

(April Wright)

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