To most in the mainsteam, Animal Collective has been written off as a freak-folk band. I sometimes tend to agree. For every beautiful peace of music they put together, there is abrupt noise, instrument thrashing, 10-minute pieces of one guitar chord. Then came Noah Lennox's (aka Panda Bear) Person Pitch, Pitchfork's best album of 2007.
Released shortly after AC's 7th studio album, Strawberry Jam (itself a disjointed effort of beauty and freak-noise), Panda Bear's new take on Beach Boy's-era Pet Sounds was a crash course in minimilast electronics and Brain Wilson-esque voice inflections, grooves and hymns. From that success grew Lennox as the head of the now 3-member Animal Collective (they have a "open door policy" that has seen 4th member "Deakin" come and go, more go than come), and I knew he would take control over the band of guiaritst/vocalist Avery Tare.
Soon, AC was playing Person Pitch songs in their live sets, and I knew their next and highly-anticipated album would be one closer to Panda Bear's style than anything else. And much like Radiohead's latest release, In Rainbows, much, if not all the material is road-tested for some time, letting them tweak, provoke, and inspire themselves to finally lay down the tracks on record.
Juding from the initial reviews, songs, and my first listen to the album last night, this is by far their biggest "pop" record to date, meaning almost everyone, AC fans or their most experimental work, to the people who haven't heard them yet, will be able to listen along. The two intial tracks that will take everyone by surprise are both Panda Bear songs, "My Girls" and "Brother Sport." Both have amazing vocal harmonies and danceable beats, courtesty of Geologist. "Girls" pairs Tare and Panda Bear sing-songing along above the synth and bass heavy, almost M.I.A.-like beat, while "Brother Sport," a live staple for over two years, finally gets the right treatment, recorded to perfection over a quick snare and several loops and sample throughout the track.
Brother Sport (live)
My Girls (from the album)
This is a dance record, no doubt. It is a cullmination of all the good things AC does so well. They have finally put aside their differences and their "art for art's sake" style of freak-folk to make their first perfect album.
The album title comes from the Frank Ghery designed concert venue in the Baltimore suburban woods, where the three attended concert in there youth. They will have no trouble at all playing these songs on a cool, clear summer night.
Spin Article on the band
(Ed. note: Full album review will come in Pepperdine's newspaper next week and be posted on this site.)