Tanner Babcock

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Animal Collective

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Year Title Rating
1998 Panda Bear - Panda Bear .../...
2000 Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished 8/10
2001 Danse Manatee 7/10
2002 Hollinndagain 7/10
2003 Campfire Songs 6.5/10
2003 Here Comes the Indian 8/10
2004 Sung Tongs 7/10
2004 Panda Bear - Young Prayer .../...
2005 Feels 7.5/10
2005 Animal Collective & Vashti Bunyan - Prospect Hummer 7/10
2006 People 5/10
2007 Strawberry Jam 6.5/10
2007 Panda Bear - Person Pitch 7/10
2008 Water Curses 6.5/10
2009 Fall Be Kind 6/10
2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion 5/10
2009* Animal Crack Box 7.5/10
2010 Avey Tare - Down There .../...
2011 Panda Bear - Tomboy .../...
2012 Centipede Hz 4.5/10
2012 >>Transverse Temporal Gyrus .../...
2013 Live at 9:30 6/10
2014 Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks - Enter the Slasher House .../...
2015 Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper 6/10
2016 Painting With 5.5/10
2017 The Painters 5.5/10
2018 Panda Bear - A Day with the Homies .../...
2018 Tangerine Reef 7/10
2019 Panda Bear - Buoys .../...
2022 >>Time Skiffs .../...

Review last updated: January 8, 2018


Animal Collective is something that is still real to me. I can sense them, the illusion of their aesthetics hasn't betrayed me yet. They come from a place of real warmth and compassion, something uninhibitedly creative. Like being 10 years old, and having a best friend you could sing songs with and be yourself around. I don't feel like I'm being fooled or mislead with the Collective's warm, psychedelic, dissonant, perceptive lullabies. Even in their later albums, this inspiration is still there, this creative process has grown - but it has not decayed or betrayed itself. For instance: A bad Animal Collective album is still pretty good. Much like a bad Woody Allen film or a bad Ingmar Bergman, even if it sucks, it's still pretty remarkable and still entertaining.

Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished

Here it is. The incredible and near-flawless debut of the harsh noise psych treehouse club. This album is perceptually astounding, measurably innovative and forward-thinking. It is one of the few albums to come from rock music (Faust is a good example) that successfully integrates a jarring, dissonant alien harshness, into a larger, detailed melodic structure. This phenomenon is much more prominent in jazz music (see Albert Ayler and Coltrane). This music could not even be compared to shoegaze, where the melodies are obscured and exaggerated, for atmospheric impressions. What I'm saying is: the noise is a fundamental part of the music. It is not something that distracts from, or obstructs the composition, it is the composition. The harsh screeching, wailing electronics, and ultra-unpleasantly-high-frequencies, become just as emotional and moving as the piano, or the guitar, or the vocals. The first track, the title track, is a rich immersive sound scape - that is to say it has "space", but also important is atmosphere, the feeling that sounds are coming from around you. There is something melodic and heavenly here that has been obscured, the way a reflection in a puddle of water is distorted with ripples, when something drops in the water.

The Collective (but then, a duo) has reached a sonic bliss and broken incredible ground in the stillborn art medium of rock music. Note the untitled track, the enormous tidal wave of noise. This noise initially makes the song abrasive, but over time, makes the emotional impact of the melodies and the content so much stronger. This album also has an incredible sense of momentum. Momentum, in this context, means the "bounciness" or preparedness of rhythms, to accurately give the listener the sense of something in motion. You will notice especially in "April and the Phantom", "Alvin Row", and "Chocolate Girl", the melodies seem to be interconnected, as if telepathic. The guitar strumming speeds up and accelerates at the same time as the percussion.

The incredible things that this album achieves, the new ground broken in perception, melodic content, momentum, and a genuine feeling of warmth and compassion, is also portrayed, but to a much lesser degree, in each of the subsequent Animal Collective albums. The genius of Spirit They're Gone can still be seen, faintly, even in the contemporary Merriweather Post Pavilion or even Painting With.

Here Comes the Indian

I want to say this album is pure "nature", despite its inherent arbitrary aesthetics, but that really doesn't adequately summarize it. This album is like a story that unfolds in front of you, something created by nature but separate from it. The most obvious of the analogies that one could summarize from this is, the ambient sounds, wordless vocals, and careful electronic use, simulate a live ecosystem, perhaps in a forest or a meadow. In one composition you can hear birds, ducks, geese, frogs - all living in harmony and happily sustaining each other. But this is only one element of this album. The risks taken and overall creative direction of the Collective on Indian, give it a vastly rare, unique, and innovative textural palette. To find another album that sounds anything like this, even in the Animal Collective body of work, is impossible.

Something else to note about this album: There are a number of constructed pop songs on this album ("Hey Light", "Slippi", "Native Belle"), giving it an initial noise pop aesthetic, but it is hard to say that this is a pop album. Pop albums don't usually consist of 25 minutes of rich ambience, ecosystem atmospheric warmth. I mean what else is there, in any of these bullshit media buzzwords and cliche genre circles, that can pull off a sound as vivid and colorful and immersive as the "Infant Dressing Table"/"Panic"/"Two Sails on a Sound" suite? Early Animal Collective works are a real treasure. Here Comes the Indian is a flawed masterpiece, and if not one of the greatest albums ever, at least one that has a lasting importance.

Traces of the creative process that makes Here Comes the Indian a work of genius, can be heard in the albums Hollinndagain, Danse Manatee, Animal Crack Box.