Animal Collective // Strawberry Jam


Having dodged numerous genre labels (freak folk, experimental indie, neo-tribal, noise rock, etc) since the band’s inception in 2000, Baltimore/Brooklyn’s Animal Collective continues its tradition of shedding its musical skin with each new release. Challenging, but far from impenetrable, Strawberry Jam won’t be an easy listen for some, yet indoctrinated fans will likely find it their most accessible effort yet. Setting the tone is opener “Peacebone,” percolating with brittle synth notes and sound bytes, creating a jittery, game arcade ambience, until the pace slows and finds a repetitive groove. Avey Tare steps in with perfectly pleasant, sing-song vocals, and all is well until the unexpected (which you expected all along) happens:  background tracks of monstrous growls and snarls crack the peace like a whip. The Collective’s caveat is clear: Don’t get too comfy in our pop world, we still want to keep you on the edge. And so it goes, this collection of oddly intoxicating songs, blending the cinematic (“Fireworks”), the surreal (“#1,” “Cuckoo Cuckoo”), the pleasantly pop (“Chores,” “Derek”), and the psychedelic (ok, the entire album, but especially “Unsolved Mysteries”) into works of sonic art. Guitarist Tare takes on more of the vocal duties this time around, but co-founder and drummer Panda Bear, with his Brian Wilson-imitation vocals, still co-navigates. The band’s talent for building strong, quirky rhythms and layers of sound into a unique pop-couture hybrid is unmatched. Their most consistent effort yet, Strawberry Jam is by turns uplifting, cerebral, transformative, curious

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