Monthly Archives: December 2009
Animal Collective – Feels
After the Panda Bear/Avey Tare tribal campfire singalong Sung Tongs, Josh Dibb and Brian Weitz (better known by their respective aliases Deakin and Geologist) return for 2005’s Feels, and it definitely sounds like the work of a full band. The four musicians worked together on past records, but this is their most disciplined and most focused album yet. Of course, this being Animal Collective, discipline and focus only broaden their emotional and creative boundaries. Although the first half of the album, with the exception of perhaps “Flesh Canoe”, is more rock-oriented than their past work, this is the sort of messy, bombastic music that Mercury Rev made in their early career. “Grass” is three minutes of booming drums and cathartic screams, all of it, of course, driven home by a sweet-as-pie melody. Meanwhile, “The Purple Bottle” throws the ecstatic and embarrassing glee of falling in love into a shape-shifting song that incorporates multi-layered chants, crackling noise climaxes, and a vocal by an Avey Tare who can barely contain himself. The latter portion of the album mainly consists of more ambient pieces often accompanied by electronic drone and autoharp, the highlight being “Banshee Beat,” which builds to a couple climaxes throughout its eight-and-a-half minute sprawl. Feels is a focused and nuanced effort from a band that continues to surprise with both passion and creativity.
Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind [EP]
Consisting of both live favorites and new material recorded during the Merriweather Post Pavilion sessions, Animal Collective’s second release of 2009, Fall Be Kind, finds the band at their best. Much like Merriweather, then, what is offered on this EP is still drenched in electronics, naturally, but this isn’t an assemblage of sub-album tracks. Instead, this is merely an opportunity for Animal Collective to explore a more atmospheric sound that wouldn’t exactly fit with the often kinetic and bracing Merriweather. In other words, these songs take their time, but the results are no less fruitful. “Graze”, what with its tension building atmosphere that finally breaks into a pan flute sample and a chorus of “Comfort! Comfort!”, is an absolute joyous track that is as warm and inviting as anything the band has ever done. Meanwhile, “What Would I Want? Sky” is a rhythm-based track that begins with crashing percussion and murky vocal harmonies and then abruptly gives way to (because you have to mention it) the first licensed Grateful Dead sample and a surprisingly upfront vocal by Avey. It is one of AC’s finest songs, finding perfect balance between innovative instrumentation and pop familiarity. “Bleed” is a decent, if ultimately forgettable, interlude that segues from the brighter, fuller first half to the more pensive second half which has songs in company with Merriweather‘s “Guys Eyes” and “Taste”. “On A Highway” pits a restless Avey Tare’s thoughts against equally restless clattering pulses and vocal chants. The final track, “I Think I Can”, calls for trance-inducing hypnosis through several vocal rounds and insistent percussion before breaking into an immediately catchy chant of its title. If the latter half of the album does not exactly live up to the promise of the first few tracks, they still hold strong, showing once again that Animal Collective’s EPs can also be artistic triumphs.
Albert Hammond, Jr. – Yours To Keep
After the Strokes’ overwrought third album, 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, the band decided to take a break from the nearly five to six years of constant touring and recording to rejuvenate. Of course, this did not turn out to be entirely true as later in 2006, rhythm and occasional lead guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. released Yours To Keep, a surprising and unexpected entry to the Strokes’ canon. To be clear, though, Hammond’s music is far removed from the sound of his day job; a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Well…All Right” may give one an idea of the direction he heads on this album. Hammond trades in sunny pop where even when things can get a little claustrophobic such as on “Scared” (“I know you’re still there because you’re scared that you’ll lose everybody”), there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Much of this has to do with Hammond’s voice as it does with his charming, unaffected melodies. His sweet, genuine delivery gives his lyrics a different tone than the Strokes, even if a few of the lines sound like Julian Casablancas could have written them. Elsewhere, album opener “Cartoon Music For Superheroes”, a song that sounds like an outtake from Pet Sounds and “Hard To Live In The City”‘s brass band closer show off the album’s unpretentious eclecticism. Yours To Keep is an unexpected surprise that will most likely win over many fans who do not find room in their taste for the Strokes.
Soup Du Jour – Soup Du Jour [EP]
Lars Paulsen and Emma Hendry make up the Massachusetts-based twee pop duo Soup Du Jour. Their eponymous debut EP is a pleasant and interesting, if not completely compelling, affair that bears more than a passing resemblance to the short-lived duo Moldy Peaches, complete with rabbit references in the artwork and lyrics. Paulsen and Hendry had a personal as well as professional relationship while writing these songs, and the songs do reflect this with a childlike naïveté. However, this duo trades in the Peaches’ scatological humor for references to existentialists and odes to historical Russian figures. Paulsen’s gentle guitar work and Hendry’s haphazard keyboard create a carnival-esque atmosphere that alternates between menacing and inviting. With so many nice ideas presented so unpretentiously, it’s a shame that many of these songs do not appear fully-formed. While the standouts “Rasputin, Ode 2”, “Best Day Ever(y) Day”, and especially the beautiful “House Boat” show potential for the band, many of the other songs on here feel like a series of interludes offering a few nice ideas here and there but are never really elaborated upon. There is enough potential here, however, to anticipate a more complete sounding long-player in the future.