In case you missed it, check out Part One.
Animal Collective followed the successful Sung Tongs with Feels in 2005. Different from its predecessors and later determined to be different from its successors, Feels returned, if only in form, to the experimentation of Spirit and Campfire Songs. Much of this album’s feel (again, no pun intended) bandwagons on the success and accessibility of Sung Tongs; obvious singles “Grass” and “The Purple Bottle” are bookended with tracks like the synesthetic “Did You See TheWords?” and the pervasive beat-driven “Banshee Beat.” The album again challenges thes listener to accept new takes on the modern folk/rock/indie sound-never losing sight of the goal to push the boundaries of sound forward.
Where Sung Tongs relied on a more unplugged sound and Feels on a more dragged out beat, 2007’s Strawberry Jam saw the members of Animal Collective focusing on Geologist’s ability to loop and sample sound (read: noise) into discernable rock, songs. Thus, the debate heated up again between the divisive communities. Opener “Peacebone” starts on a long blast of electronic signal noise that’s eventually harnessed into a loop-heavy, lyric-intense head-bopper. My guess is that the initial blast of noise deterred naysayers right from the start in that “the noise gets in the way of the song.” But isn’t it interesting how Geologist is able to harbor the chaos into control? No, they will say, and give up, further antagonizing the band’s most joyous listeners.
The real beauty of Strawberry Jam comes about halfway through the record, with the masterpiece “For Reverend Green.” Vocals processed through a sampler, reverbed guitars and Avey Tare’s now-signature yelps combine to make this song a lyrical masterpiece:
A running child’s bloody with burning knees
A careless child’s money flew in the trees
A camping child’s happy with winter’s freeze
A lucky child don’t know how lucky she is
This song explores joy and sorrow, wantonness and strict control and even addresses a large demographic of the naysayers directly: “From one moment to the next/a thousand wasted Brooklyners all depressed.” Above all, this song represents the cohesion the band has formed. The “Reverend Green” in question is most likely Al Green,whose most famous song is most likely “Let’s Stay Together.”
Equally important as a crescendo is the next track “Fireworks,” which flows seamlessly from “For Reverend Green.” This song explores the joys of being alive and the love the band have found for it’s creativity through Mother Earth. Shrouded in metaphor and simile, the lyrics are introspective and flow in tandem with the pounding drum track and soaring guitar. The hook:
Man, it passes right by me it’s behind me, now it’s gone
I can’t lift you up cause my mind is tired, it’s family beaches that I desire
That sacred night where we watched the fireworks
They frightened the babies and you know they’ve got two flashing eyes
And if they are color blind, they make me feel, that you’re only what I see sometimes
After its initial release, critics praised Strawberry Jam as a culmination of the band’s tedious attention to detail while expanding the broad base of sound experimentation of previous works. Dissenters claimed that the album was a dense,masturbatory reflection. Around this time, many listeners who had grown up on junk and entered college (read: me) found the ultimate joy in being able to express their musical sensibility through the ultimate “poseur” band.
Following Strawberry Jam‘s appearance on many “Best of…” lists, many “music snobs: pondered how this band would follow their masterpiece and not enter a “ninth-album slump.” Laying relatively dormant on the recording side, the band began testing new material in their live performances backing the release of Strawberry Jam. In late 2008, not 18 months after the release of their magnum opus, “My Girls” leaked across the Interwebs and yea-sayers, dissenters, moms, and dogs collectively jizzed their pants.
At this point, Animal Collective had enough back history to really release anything they wanted. Instead, the band readiedthe release of their most accessible and fantastic release to date, Merriweather Post Pavilion. In earlyJanuary 2009, Animal Collective proclaimed “top THIS” to every other band in the universe with their true magnum opus; as a surprise to no one, this album topped almost every year-end chart even after revealing its hand before the ante…
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