Music Blogs - Blogged Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Animal Collective: "Strawberry Jam"

I can remember when Animal Collective's 2005 album, "Feels," came out. I remember reading Rolling Stone calling them an "Artist to watch" or something similar to that, no doubt about 2 pages away from them ranting about the genius of Christina Aguilera or Pink. I recall being entirely confused by this article, mostly because this was Animal Collective, a band that has traditionally taken the non-Rolling Stone route of creating music. To see the one magazine that represents everything that is wrong with the music industry even acknowledging the band's existence was surprising to say the least. As it turns out though, my initial fear that Animal Collective had put aside their experimental rock sound in favor of a more Rolling Stone-friendly style was premature. "Feels" was a great album that showed a clear progression from "Sung Tongs," and I generally enjoyed what I heard.

"Strawberry Jam" also shows the band growing and expanding on their sound. The most notable change is that the album is strangely devoid of any significant downtime. Whereas their past two albums (the only two that I am familiar with) had upbeat, fast songs like "Who Could Win a Rabbit" grouped with dreamy, slow songs like "Bees," "Strawberry Jam" is exciting and upbeat for the majority of it's 43 minutes. In addition, the album also utilizes electronic instrumentation and effects more than their other works. It helps give "Strawberry Jam" a fresher sound and separates it from their previous records.

"Peacebone" gets thing started on a good note, as it's one of my favorite Animal Collective songs ever, blending electronic flutters with sing-along vocals and syncopated guitars. It sounds great! Of course, like most Animal Collective songs, it really needs to be heard in order to be understood. The album continues to spiral in and out of control, each song taking seemingly incompatible sounds and mashing them together to form something that is entirely unique. "For Reverend Green" is another brilliant song, and hearing Avey Tare (I think) scream out the song's title repeatedly at the end is a small joy that everyone should experience. That song fades into "Fireworks," a 7-minute song that utilizes every second to the fullest; never wasting a single moment with trivial instrumentation or lyrics.

"Strawberry Jam" isn't about the songs, though. It's about the album as a whole. Sure, you could pick out your favorites, put them on your iPod, and call it a day, but you'd be missing out on a truly memorable experience. I must admit that on their previous albums, I did just that. But "Strawberry Jam" is definitely something that needs to be listened to in its entirety. It's definitely not going to be for everyone, but that's to be expected. Animal Collective's music may be cursed to being viewed as either complete amateurism or complete genius, but absolutely no one could say that it's ordinary. Not even Rolling Stone. Of course, my biggest complaint with the album is the same as my complaints with their past works. "Strawberry Jam" is definitely a great record, but it's not something I can listen to with consistency week after week. However, I look forward to spending time with the album here and there, knowing that when I do, I'll be treated to something new and exciting every time!

Key Tracks:
1. "Peacebone"
2. "For Reverend Green"
3. "Fireworks"
4. "Winter Wonder Land"
5. "Derek"

7 out of 10 Stars

No comments: