Introduction to your favorite bands: Animal Collective

So I’ve been participating in this thread on Footballs under the username Colt45fool that allows me to introduce members to a band of my choosing every 3 weeks on Wednesdays. Today I choose to introduce them to Animal Collective.

Some of this will undoubtedly have some inner forum talk, but most of it should make sense to any of my blog readers. Also, I’ve been doing this since February, so older already written posts will probably be posted here once in a while when there’s not much to talk about.

Tunes to get the blood boiling: Animal Collective – “Water Curses” of course!

Years Active: 1999-current
Genre: Experimental, Freak Folk, Psychedelic, Ambient, erraythang inbetween

I never wanted to do an obvious big indie band but I couldn’t resist. Plus the other band I wanted to do I’ve never listened to their third album, which I’ve heard is awful but I’d still like to give a listen before suggesting them.

Anyways, Animal Collective is an experimental band from Baltimore, Maryland now based in New York City. They have a pretty rich and interesting history believe it or not, as the four members began creating music together at the age of fifteen due to a love of another Wednesday band, Pavement [self-promotion from myself at its finest, but much love to broseph.]Often the four would create solo music, sometimes with help from each other. Eventually this would become their earliest recordings, the first official ones being Panda Bear’s self-titled record from ’98, and Avey Tare & Panda Bear’s Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished in ’99 [widely regarded, as their first “group” record.]

That first record is very avant-garde. Very electronic, and experimental, low vocals, screaming vocals, mixed with some downright fantastic instrumentation. It’s a love-hate album. Some people listen to it and can’t believe this is the same Animal Collective that released Strawberry Jam, or Merriweather Post Pavillion . The noise is “too much,” the music doesn’t “make sense,” or this “isn’t music,” are common complaints. I beg to differ. This is beautiful, intriguing, guitar fluttering with sounds that should be background noise for a Disney flick [see: Bat You’ll Fly, Chocolate Girl.]

Is it weird? Absolutely. But I suppose that’s how you can sum up Animal Collective’s music, and really their first era of music is as weird as it gets.

The first era of Animal Collective really begins with Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, and ends with their second recording Danse Manatee. I’ve never listened to this record, but I’ve heard awful things. The second record is the first to feature high school friend Geologist in the performances. I like to cut the first era off here because afterwards the band added fourth member, high school friend Deakin into the mix. They also made a deliberate stylistic change. The second era of Animal Collective begins with Campfire Songs and includes Here Comes The Indian and Sung Tongs. While the first era of Animal Collective is noisy, electronic bliss the second era is folksy and very nature-esque. . The songs here are sometimes inviting, absolutely obscure, ambient, and about as close to a career suicide as any mainstream musician could ever get [luckily for us, AC has never been mainstream.] There are still some elements of noise, and electronics [most present on Here Comes The Indian] but they aren’t nearly as utilized as previous records.

The first record, Campfire Songs sounds as the name implies. There’s a lot of harmonizing on this record. A lot of really organic sounds. Leaves rustling, crickets chirping, fires crackling…the album is really a measure of the outdoors, with some very Church-esque harmonizing that’s meant to be taken with sound to express emotion rather than lyrics. In fact, most of the lyrics on this record are far too obscure to understand. The entire record is noted for being recorded outside, in one take for each track. It’s also noted as a precursor to Sung Tongs. Here Comes The Indian was made in a similar manner to Campfire Songs though with a MAJOR overhaul in production style. There’s a huge emphasis on noise, and the record really is a mix of Spirit They’re Gone… and Campfire Songs, with some handclaps, and very primal, psychedelic, screaming tribal vocals from Tare and Panda Bear for good measure. It’s a pretty great record…not my favorite by any means, but something different worth giving a listen to as it does contain some of my favorites from Animal Collective.

The fun thing about Here Comes The Indian and Campfire Songs is that they’re both Sung Tongs done in a diferent, less focussed way. Campfire Songs is the folk record–the harmonies, the aroma, the textures are all just about being outside around your campfire [pun not intended.] Here Comes The Indian is the psychedelia, the noise pop, the electronics, the synthesizers…everything that makes Animal Collective crazy and fun. In reality it’s the same album as Campfire Songs, masked in today’s production credits.

Sung Tongs continues this distinguished style of recording by essentially mashing the two styles together to create one record that at the time was their most accessible to date. It has that distinction of being just obscure enough to make it ridiculous [We Tigers, Visiting Friends] while just indie enough to make it listenable [Sweet Road, Leaf House] and still just folksy & psychedelic enough to make it in this second era of Animal Collective freak-folk [Winter’s Love.] The result is probably the defining freak-folk record of the past decade, filled with tantalizing drums, classic harmonies and vocals, and some really exotic textures. Also, if you ask me you can also blame this record for just about all your favorite bands of the last seven years as it really had an incredible effect on what indie music was in the second half of the 00s, and who Pitchfork would recognize during the time period [so yes, Woods, Grizzly Bear, Le Loup, Joanna Newsom, etc. etc. you can all thank Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs for your very existence and success you’ve had – from commercials to record sales.]

Animal Collective again switched styles into what I consider their third [and modern] era of the collective which includes Feels, Strawberry Jam, and Merriweather Post Pavillion. These records are known for being more psychedelic pop, with small influences from their previous records, most notably the freak-folk era. I feel like a lot of people know about these records so I won’t talk too much about them but they are all essentially the same record with little nuances differing one from the other. Feels definitely is the most freak-folk of the bunch, released only a year after Sung Tongs. Sometimes its talked about as a more fully realized version of Sung Tongs, and some would even put this in the second era of Animal Collective records [though imo it’s not nearly obscure enough to compare to Here Comes The Indian, though I guess the proper response is, what is?]

The thing I love about Feels is just how much you hear this album in so many other indie albums. You can hear Beirut, Delorean, The Morning Benders, Real Estate, Le Loup, and literally a hundred other bands in “The Purple Bottle,” alone. This is really one of the most essential records of the 00s, even if it isn’t their best. Though this is a defining record of the last decade, and I respect it for that, I still can’t help but feel this record is missing something that Strawberry Jam mastered tenfold.

Strawberry Jam is by all means my favorite record from Animal Collective. There isn’t much reason as to why–it’s just WAY more consistent than any of their other records which has always been my issue with Animal Collective, consistency. It’s also their first attempt, and the perfect display of them showing styles of every era of their music. You can hear obscure noise and screams on “From Reverand Green,” [found on Spirit They’re Gone… & Here Comes The Indian], those classic drum patterns that have been copycatted to death on “Winter Wonder Land” [found on Feels, Sung Tongs], call and reply harmonies on “Peacebone” [found on all their second era records], those psychedelic obscurities found on “Chores” [found on literally every record of theirs] and classic song structures found on “Fireworks” [found mainly on Sung Tongs, and Feels, but also seen on Spirit They’re Gone… and others.]

Merriweather Post Pavillion, seen by many is their best record is also their poppiest to date. Of course, pop music for Animal Collective should be taken with a huge grain of salt….because hardly anything they make should fit into that category. The record does what Strawberry Jam does just not nearly as good. I’m sure any of you reading this though, have already heard this record along with the overplayed “My Girls,” so I won’t really delve much into this.

As far as records to get into…well, I’ve kind of gone over all of them. What I didn’t talk about is their EPs [People, Prospect Hummer, Water Curses, Fall Be Kind] which I have the two latter ones [both are more than worth your time.] The best record to start with is definitely Strawberry Jam or Merriweather Post Pavillion. Both are definitely the most accessible. From there I’d move to either Feels or Sung Tongs as you can’t go wrong with either. After this, most would say work your way back…but the way I did it was to work my way forward. Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished will be respected by anyone who’s put up with Radiohead’s obscurities, and quite honestly if you can deal with that record you should be able to deal with Here Comes The Indian and Campfire Songs

Favorite Records In Order:

1. Strawberry Jam (2007)
2. Sung Tongs (2004)
3. Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished (1999)
4. Merriweather Post Pavillion (2009)
5. Fall Be Kind EP (2009)
6. Water Curses EP (2008)
7. Here Comes The Indian (2003)
8. Feels (2005)
9. Campfire Songs (2003)

There’s also: Hummer EP (2005), People EP (2007), and Danse Manatee (2001) which I haven’t listened to.

Dope Songs:
April & The Phantom [Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished]
Bat You’ll Fly [Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished]
La Rapet [Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished]
Chocolate Girl [Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished]
Queen In My Pictures [Campfire Songs]
Doggy Campfire Songs]
Panic [Here Comes The Indian]
Hey Light! [Here Comes The Indian]
Leaf House [Sung Tongs]
We Tigers! – seriously, best AC song ever [Sung Tongs]. Also, I strongly suggest people watch a live version of this song. So FREAKIN’ good. Proof that Avey Tare is a genius. I’d honestly have his children if he sung this in bed.
Winters Love [Sung Tongs]
The Purple Bottle – awesome fanmade video btw [Feels]
Banshee Beat [Feels]
Fireworks [Strawberry Jam]
For Reverend Green [Strawberry Jam]
Winter Wonder Land [Strawberry Jam]
Water Curses [Water Curses EP]
Summertime Clothes [Merriweather Post Pavillion]
Guys’ Eyes [Merriweather Post Pavillion]
Brothersport [Merriweather Post Pavillion]
What Would I Want? Sky! [Fall Be Kind EP]

About realmikeclark

23-year old Journalism & Psychology graduate of the University of Connecticut.
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