Monday, February 25, 2008

Review : Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Domino) 2007

Pump up the Jam!
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Domino (2007)

Nowadays the announcement of a new Animal Collective album isn’t just something to look forward to, it’s an event. Face it these guys are probably the greatest band of the 00’s and why not? Their freaky campfire sing-a-longs and avant-garde soundscapes have captured the hearts of a lot of people out there and each new release brings out some type of aspect from them which was lacking in the previous album (more on that later) They sound so fresh and innovative that you can’t help seeing why they are constantly name checked.

Their break through happened with 2004’s Sung Tong’s , where song structures started to creep in and the sample collage experiments of their previous records started to take the back seat. You noticed that instead of Stockhausen and Can being a major influence, The Beach Boys and The Beatles had their roles as well in their music.

By 2005’s ‘Feels’ everything was more or less in place. Sure I there were elements of their old material there but it was magical and held together nicely. Plus it had the song ‘Grass’, on it which proved that the ‘Collective can write ‘hits’ ( well in a parallel universe it would be a hit)

Now the band have signed to Domino and there were whispers of a more commercial album among the fans. Well forget that it’s crap. Strawberry Jam is the sound of a band that are enhancing every element that’s great about them. It’s still The Animal Collective but with a teensy bit more chucked in.

The first noticeable thing is that for the first time one can hear the vocals. Instead of the muffled voices and feral yelps of lore there’s actual words (and the yelps of lore too). In fact the voice plays the central role here, dominating the music at times. Whereas in the past most critics ( including myself) thought that Animal Collective’s magic lies in their multi instrumentation but they’ve proved us wrong for the umpteenth time.

Another bonus factor is that’s it’s got warm, homely, sugary and sticky melodies .In interviews head honcho Panda Bear has stated that the title can to his head first and then the band modeled the whole record on the concept of music being like Strawberry Jam. They succeeded.

Opener ‘Peacebone’ is the track which summarizes the feel of the whole album. Starting with a digital head mess and then easing it’s way into something children may dance to wildly at a kindergarten party. It balances naivety with technical know how and furthermore it’s uplifting and giddy. One thing I notice is that Animal Collective’s love for the Beach Boys really comes through, especially on ‘Fireworks’. Voices chime in and out over walls of beatific sounds.

I notice that every Animal Collective album has one track which wins you over and marvel at how special a band they are. In the case of ‘Strawberry Jam’ it has to be Reverend Green Sonically it’s no different than the other tracks here but it does contain that magic that encompasses the greatness of Animal Collective. With its shifting guitar and it’s whooping chanting of the track’s title will make you open your eyes and realize why they are so feted as a group.

Revolver, Pet Sounds , Forever Changes , Rock Bottom, Future Days , Medulla, Mirrored ; all albums which warped your perceptions on how a band are supposed to sound like and changed the idea of an album and Strawberry Jam is up there with the best. One can say that Animal Collective are a band one should preserve ( geddit? Tee hee hee)

No comments: