Monday, September 10, 2007

Album Review: Animal Collective - Strawberry Jams

Femme Fatale says...


Great albums come and go, but great bands are rare. What differentiates artists with a flash-in-the-pan success from those who rest comfortably among the greats? Longevity, of course, but also reinvention and rediscovery. Nothing speaks more for a band than diehard fans, but more specifically, diehard fans of particular albums.

In less than a decade Animal Collective has forged a fanbase that includes Here Comes the Indian followers who fell in love with the band at its most primitive, Sung Tong worshippers who prefer airy, drum-beat chants like “Winter’s Love,” and Feels fans who seek poppier, more traditional song structures. Now from the proverbial mixing pot springs Strawberry Jams, the band’s latest witches’ brew. Somewhere “Fireworks” are exploding in music lovers' headphones, and a new wave of sycophants is falling under the band’s spell.

How does a band stay true to its core while pursuing a new, singular sound? For Animal Collective this has meant experimenting with what makes songs. I’ll never forget my first crack at “College,” the breezy Sung Tongs charmer that distills its theme in its sole lyric, “You don’t have to go to college.” You don’t have to live life according to an instruction manual, the band purports, any more than we have to make music following one. On Strawberry Jams experimentation means shifting the focus to more lyric-based tunes. Standout track “For Reverend Green” proves that being lyrical doesn’t have to hold up to the term's pleasant connotations. The result? Avey Tare’s vocal cords run ragged on a loaded gun of a track that could have misfired -- if it didn’t pop on every gut gripping level. The track's jagged edge is the perfect segue into the sleepy builder "Fireworks."

An Animal Collective for every season, perhaps? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been jamming to these jams all summer, but the album evokes the tingle of an early sunburn, palms sticky with popsicle. With Strawberry Jams Animal Collective has proven they have the wherewithal to journey from the promise of spring to the isolating bleakness of winter and back again. This is the moment that music lovers/critics revere, the moment they can say a favorite band has what it takes to be one of the greats.

Sonic Ryan says... Click here.

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