Maybe it’s a romantic connection with some bygone rural era, Mother Nature serving as a glorious muse, or a malignant environmental conspiracy of epic proportions (I’m looking at you Al Gore), but I’m finding a naturalistic / animalistic theme running through a lot of my favorite music. Whether its Andrew Birds, Grizzly Bears, or Alligators, I am feeling as much of a connection with nature as my crippling pollen allergy will allow.
However, there is one group of creatures I feel the need to focus on – Animal Collective. I recently picked up Strawberry Jam, feeling that I would experience the same affinity for that recording as I had for band member Panda Bear’s excellent Person Pitch. Fun fact; apparently Person Pitch is a pun based off of the title of the obvious Panda Bear influencing record Pet Sounds (Get it? Get it? Lame as puns go apparently. Look out for another lame pun at the end of this article).
Anyhow, getting to the music at hand, let me first say that I truly admire these two projects for their unbridled creativity and willingness to push sonic boundaries. Person Pitch simply must be heard to be believed. Made by singing overtop of samples sounding like old Phil Spector, 60s girl group, and dub records, Panda Bear (aka. Noah Lennox) has created a record that is simultaneously innovative, nostalgic, and beautiful. Standouts include the second half of Take Pills and the tear-inducing (In a good way) chorus on Bros.
As for Strawberry Jam, I must say, I am slightly disappointed, but only slightly. The record is as original a work as Person Pitch, but with a much broader sonic palette. Band members Geologist, Avey Tare, and Deakin (yes, those are how their names are listen, along with Panda Bear, an enterprising bunch) create textures and layers of noise that prefer a build and swell approach to traditional note or key changes. Check out Fireworks or Peacebone for perfect examples of this. However, despite this breadth of sound, Avey Tare’s vocals are a standout weak point. By alternating between a playful singing tone and full throat screams, even within the same sentence, Avey Tare juxtaposes a vocal style suited for the dignified genre of mall-emo (yeah, I said it, want to fight?) against perfectly constructed music, which is highly unfortunate. It’s easy to see where the improvement the band would have if Panda Bear sang all the tracks, especially on the exceptional number Chores.
I hope I haven’t ruffled too many feathers with this Animal Collective article (See? So many puns). Check out the track below for your listening pleasure.