Tag Archives: Animal Collective

Deakin ‘Sleep Cycle’ – Review

19 May

Deakin is Animal Collective’s unknown quantity. He wasn’t involved in their greatest success (‘Meriwether Post Pavillion’) or their biggest failure (this year’s poorly received ‘Painting With’). His contributions have been modest and his voice has been the least heard. Nonetheless, his one vocal addition to the fairly unlistenable ‘Centepiede HZ’, ‘Wide Eyed’, resulted in the album’s finest moment. ‘Sleep Cycle’ is his first solo album and it suggests that perhaps Deakin had more of an influence than we thought. In its tone and soundscapes it recalls the lush beauty of ‘Feels’ and ‘Song Tungs’ era Animal Collective. It’s a short but lovely record.

In fact It’s a shame ‘Sleep Cycle’ is flying so low under the radar as it’s the best thing to come out of the Animal Collective camp since ‘Fall be Kind’. It has none of the restless uncertainty of Panda Bear’s ‘Meets the Grim Reaper’, and it’s nowhere near as annoying as ‘Centepeide HZ’ or ‘Painting With’. It’s ethereal melodies and earthy instrumentation return us to the band’s early artistic endeavours when the group were basically folky hippies with an interest in electronics and psychedelic indulgences.

Whilst an unremarkable singer, it’s notable how similar Deakin sounds to Panda Bear, albeit with a less angelic tone. His melodies, set free by simple, Unfussy lyrics, are ambitiously fluid and compelling. He’s obviously been paying close attention to his band mate over the years. This comfortable familiarity is offset by the unexpected musical journeys he takes us on. ‘Sleep Cycle’ was initially inspired by a trip to ‘Mali’ and you feel the unfamiliarity of those surroundings in the dislocated beats, shuffling rhythms and acoustic oscillations. Occasionally field recordings are utilised with impressive effect, as on the short centrepiece ‘Shadow Mine’, On which Deakin pants and whimpers ‘when I get lonely…’ over what sounds like a religious chant. This part-instrumental / part field recording helps to break up the album in to two distinctive sections.

Here then is the AnCo member who understands pacing. Deakin knows that you can’t just hit your listener over the head with disorientating sounds and beats right out the gate and then continue to batter them in to submission for the rest of the album. ‘Sleep Cycle’ builds beautifully, starting with the acoustic ‘Golden Chords’ which slowly washes over ambient samples before melting in to the more poppy ‘Just Am’. It’s only with perfect timing, after yet more build that we get the frantic and unnerving ‘Footy’, which is as loud and brash as anything on ‘Painting With’ but isolated and surrounded by more lush and ornate textures. Listening to ‘Footy’ feels like you’ve reached the top of the mountain, or any high; everything before was leading to this point and everything after gently brings you down.

Clocking in at half an hour with only five ‘proper’ songs, ‘Sleep Cycle’ leaves you wanting more. It’s a slight but meticulously crafted album. Far from being the disposable member, it turns out that Deakin was a crucial clog in the Animal Collective machine. Based on this evidence, they will sorely miss his contributions for as long as he stays away.



Animal Collective ‘Painting With’ – Review

25 Feb

Animal collective personified blog buzz back in 2009, when indie-rock bands put away guitars, started digging The Beach Boys and dialled up the ambition. Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter and Dirty Projectors were all big but none received quite so much hype as Animal Collective. In ‘Merriether Post Pavillion’ they had an album that deserved the acclaim.

Seven years later and the muted response that has greeted ‘Painting With’ is emblematic of just how far (this particular flavour of) Indie Rock’s stock has fallen. The genre has reverted to type; it’s back to being insular, lo-if, scene based and rooted in punk values. Nothing wrong with that, but it does make the expansive, ambitious, melodically and harmonically driven sound of Animal Collective seem out of place. Seven years later, indie rock has far more modest aims. In its confusion, bizzare singularity and skewed targets ‘Painting With’ typifies this deflated mood perfectly.

The group’s last album, ‘Centepiede HZ’, was a messy and overwhelming collection that could easily be the worst follow up to a classic album that I can recall. The good news is that while ‘Painting With’ still has some of that album’s less pleasant traits, it’s not quite as over the top and busy. It’s not rammed to the rafters with layers and layers of noise. It’s not drenched in reverb. The songs aren’t long and dirge like. These, at least, are positive steps in the right direction.

And in ‘Floridada’ and ‘Golden Gal’, they possess two positive singles. The two tracks bubble along with an irrepressible enthusiasm that is infectious rather than annoying. They’re busy but not so crammed with ideas that you can’t tell one hook from another. The melodies are highlighted and not overwhelmed by what is happening in the margins. But these are the exception. For the most part the tracks on ‘Painting With’ are restless and lacking in space for quiet contemplation. Listening to it from start to finish is akin to being repeatedly whacked around the head by a hyperactive child with a rubber mallet. It is an irritating, headache inducing experience.

The group have a increasingly disruptive attitude which steers them towards disorientation. The sounds are there to dazzle you in to a state of confusion, whilst the lurching, grasping rhythms seem perfectly designed to trip you up. Take album closer ‘Recycling’ as an example. The song starts with a blaze of beeps and burps including a sound mimicking an alarm going off to one imitating a gurgling tap left to drip overnight. Then bells start ringing low down in the mix as synths fade in like a rising sun. At 38 seconds a kick drum starts keeping time but the synths, which now start bending, pay no attention to this and continue to warp in and out of tune to their own invisible beat. Suddenly you realise a clock is ticking in the background, also to its own rhythm. When Avey and Panda Bear enter the scenario at the minute mark they are lost in their own world, oblivious to the crazy soundscape we’ve been landed in. They trade syllables, in the now customary way, in perfect alternation but somehow completely oblivious to one another. There is no emotional or spiritual connection. They say things but who knows what – their singing style and the dubious mix makes the words inaudible. And ‘Recycling’ is the prettiest, most soulful song on the album

As impressive as the vocals, on a purely visceral level, can sometimes be, the songs exist with an utterly hollow core. In the place that it matters, Animal Collective are lacking. There is also a distinct lack of groove; for all their love of exotic sounds and world music, Animal Collective remain the whitest group in all of human existence (musically, not racially). As technically accomplished as the group undoubtedly are, you have to wonder – to what end? Their syllable swapping is impressive but ultimately unmoving. The strange musical sounds are curious but hardly unprecedented. In the end It’s a thoroughly exhausting album to listen to. Animal Collective know some tricks, sure, but what good are these skills if they don’t implement them in a credible way? Like a Brazilian footballer who dribbles and nutmegs his way around the pitch so artfully but shoots the ball in to the rafters when staring at the mouth of the goal. The group’s daunting reputation prevents widespread criticism but this mess surely deserves nothing else?



Animal Collective ‘Centipede HZ’ – Review

6 Sep

Animal Collective. *sigh*. In bits and pieces they’ve made some  brilliant music; ‘Meriwether Post Pavillion’ and ‘Person Pitch’ obviously, and a lot of ‘Feels’ and ‘Strawberry Jam’ were brilliant. But come on, anyone’s who’s seen them live will surely attest to their inconsistency, as will anyone who had to sit and listen to most of their early stuff. Their purple patch circa 2007-2010 was a brief but unprecedented period of staggering creativity for the band, but with ‘centipede HZ’ they’re back to their old form; occasionally spellbinding, usually awful, always unique.

Part of the reason for this inconsistency is their ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to making music which means that if you aren’t in the right mood, their albums are almost unlistenable. This record in particular is loud, frenzied, and buzzing with ideas – some of which they pull off but most of which they don’t. Each song is packed to bursting with sounds and melodies that rise and fall, stutter and stop, start and explode, and It screws with your head. Opener ‘Moonjack’ has a particularly chaotic soundscape that sits ill at ease with the song’s lyrical content (a description of a childhood car journey). The crazier the lyrics, the more sense the crazy music makes; for example on ‘Monkey Riches’ where Avey Tare sings ‘Lately I want to be in my heart /But where exactly is my heart and where does it start?’ Here the words make about as much sense as the music. Fine.

After the relatively blissed out sounds of ‘Meriwether Post Pavillion’ (which, whilst hardly relaxed, was a damnsight more laid back than this album) the chaos surrounding everything on ‘Centipede HZ’ feels slightly bewildering and overwhelming. ‘Today’s Supernatural’ has an interesting melody that is complimented nicely by a slightly demented synth. Sadly though both of these elements are drowned out by a bulldozer of noise that virtually demolishes the song over the course of four minutes. Likewise, the beautiful melody in the middle eight of ‘Rosie Oh’ is completely drowned out by the sound of a car alarm going off. Flickering from channel to channel. interrupted by the sound of a bicycle bell. And a bird screeching. Why? Does it reflect the song’s lyrical busyness? Or maybe it compliments the song’s theme or main concern? Hardly, in fact whilst all this chaos is going on Tare is singing about being ‘on my own’. Deliberate Irony? Considering the whole album is this mental, I find that unlikely.

If you can see past the awful, chaotic soundscapes (I can’t – I’ve tried) and focus on the melodies then you may find this a more interesting and rewarding listen. AC have always been capable producing genius in this department, and that talent at least shines brightly on this record. It contains a couple of earworms like ‘Applesauce’, ‘Rosie Oh’ and ‘Mercury Man” whilst ‘Wide Eyed’ sees Deacon take lead vocal for the first time. This song may be the best thing on here; his voice weaves in and out with enjoyable effort and the lyrics are well thought through (it may not be a coincidence that this is the only song that doesn’t feel particularly overstuffed with noises). The track has a World Music vibe that feels like a natural continuation of Merriwhether’s psychadelic sonic delights.

The reviews of ‘Centipede HZ’ have thus far have been hilariously frustrating, with publications who clearly don’t like or understand the album giving it high praise. Why? Because it was made by the untouchable Animal Collective of course. I guarantee you that had this been the debut album by an unknown band there is no way anyone would be paying it any attention. These reviewers talk about expectations and how Animal Collective haven’t pandered to ours, well, the one thing I expected ‘Centipede HZ’ to be was surprising. In many ways it is a surprising record, but not for the right reasons. It’s surprising for its lack of clarity, its lack of innovation, its lack of focus, and mainly for its lack of tunes. It surprises me more that despite these things I would still recommend giving it a listen, the melodies alone are interesting enough to warrant that, and the lyrics are often intriguing in their own right. But come on! It’s been three and a half years since ‘Meriwether Post Pavillion’, and I know it’s probably unfair to bang on about that record as much as I have done, but after that classic work of art, I can’t believe this is the best they could return with.


New Animal Collective and Passion Pit

7 May

Soooooooooo, Animal Collective are back. Check out the typically zany ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Gotham’ HERE

Meanwhile, Passion Pit, the guys who made the brilliant ‘Manners’ in 2009, have also released their comeback single. You can listen to ‘Take a Walk’ HERE. Whilst your at it, remind yourself how brilliant both bands are capable of being by listening to ‘Little Secrets’ and ‘My Girls’ below.

I’m getting lost in your curls…

22 Sep

…I’m drawing pictures on your skin, so soft it twirls


Best Albums of 2009!

7 Jan

Below is a list of my 50 favourite albums of 2009. The top ten is a mixture of interesting new bands, surprising returns and assured comebacks. It was a very good (maybe not classic) year for albums…

50. Warm Heart of Africa – The Very Best

49. Between My Head and The Sky – Yoko Ono

48. Rewild – Amazing Baby

47. Ocean Sunbirds – Universal Studios Florida

46. Oh My God Charlie Darwin – The Low Anthem

45. LP – Discovery

44. Songs of Shame – Woods

43. Invaders must Die – The Prodigy

42. Journal For Plague Lovers – Manic Street Preachers

41. Kings and Queens – Jamie T

40. True Romance – Golden Silvers

39. To Loose My life – White Lies

38. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons

37. Embryonic – The Flaming Lips

36. Roadsinger – Yusuf

35. Tounge n Cheek – Dizzee Rascal

34. Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear

33. West Pauper Lunatic Asylum – Kasabian

32. Christmas In The Heart/ Together Through Life – Bob Dylan

31. Everything is New – Jack Penate

30. Wavvves – Wavves

29. Man on The Moon – Kid Cudi

28. Two Suns – Bat for Lashes

27. 21st Century Breakdown – Green Day

26. Gorilla Manor – Local Natives

25. Psychic Chasms – Neon Indian

24. Mind Chaos – Hockey

23. The Ressistance – Muse

22. Two Dancers – Wild Beasts

21. Backspacer – Pearl Jam

20. Wall of Arms – The Maccabees

19. Manners – Passion Pit

18. Life of Leisure – Washed Out

17. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors

16. It’s Blitz – Yeay Yeah Yeahs

15. Walking on a Dream – Empire of The Sun

14. Wolfganag Armadaus – Phoenix

13. The Crying Light – Anthony and The Johnsons

12. Phrazes for The Young – Julian Casablancas

11. Only Revolutions – Biffy Clyro

10. The Virgins – The Virgins

9. Tonight – Franz Ferdinand

8. Summertime – The Drums

7. My Maudlin Carear – Camera Obscura

6. First Days of Spring – Noah and The Whale

5. Album – Girls

4. Primary Colours – The Horrors

3. Meriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective

2. The XX – The XX

1. Humbug – Arctic Monkeys

Singles of 2009!

30 Dec

Below is a list of my top 50 favourite singles, a better list than I thought it would be, turns out 2009 was a good year for singles. I particuarly liked the lo-fi pop coming out of America (Girls, Wavves, Surfer Blood etc). Links to videos are provided for the top 20 and stay tuned for top 50 albums of the year coming soon…

50. Uprising – Muse

49. So Bored – Wavves

48. The Fixer – Pearl Jam

47. Omen – The Prodigy

46. We Are The People – Empire Of The Sun

45. Zero – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

44. Stillness is the move – Dirty Projectors

43. Velvet – The Big Pink

42. Hooting and Howling – Wild Beasts

41. Bulletproof – La Roux

40. In For The Kill – La Roux

39. The Captain – Biffy Clyro

38. While You Wait For The Others – Grizzly Bear

37. Cousins – Vampire Weekend

36. That Golden Rule – Biffy Clyro

35. Fire – Kasabian

34. Crystallised – The XX

33. 21st Century Breakdown – Green Day

32. Orange Shirt – Discovery

31. One Week of Danger – The Virgins

30. 11th Dimension – Julian Casablancas

29. Empire State of Mind – Jay Z

28. Feel It All Around – Washed Out

27. No You Girls – Franz Ferdinand

26. Warriors Dance – The Prodigy

25. The Fear – Lilly Allen

24. Dominos – The Big Pink

23. Walking on a dream – Empire Of The Sun

22. Love You Better – The Maccabees

21. Pokerface – Lady Gaga

20. Daniel – Bats For Lashes

19. Crying Lightning – Arctic Monkeys

18. Brightside – The Soft Pack

17. Who Can Say – The Horrors

16. Sticks and Stones – Jamie T

15. Laura – Girls

14. Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear

13. My Girls – Animal Collective

12. Never Forget You – The Noisettes

11. Sun Was High and So Was I – Best Coast

10. Hyph Mngo – Joy Orbison

9. Swim to reach The End – Surfer Blood

8. Rich Girls – The Virgins

7. Bonkers – Dizzie Rascal

6. Remedy – Little Boots

5. Song Away – Hockey

4. Lets go Surfing – The Drums

3. Cornerstone – Arctic Monkeys

2. Lust For Life – Girls

1. Sea Within A Sea – The Horrors