I have been waiting patiently for the release date of Animal Collective’s latest album since their critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavillion since its recent live stream. After a number of highly suspicious leaks which turned out to be nothing more than crappy transcodes of the original stream, a tripfriend from /sp/ seems to have delivered and provided a legitimate 320 leak of this album. Finally I can start to put some words down on this album now that its intricacies are a little clearer, and boy are there are lot of intricacies.
I find talking about Animal Collective albums enormously difficult; they are often such huge and spacious affairs that it’s really tempting to just go through track-by-track and dissect them, but the result would be a fantastically tedious read due to the sheer amount of content. Sadly this is near enough what I ended up doing, but I just couldn’t find another way to do this fantastic album justice.
The premise of Centipede Hz, that is to say the underlying theme of the album, is that it is meant to be a kind of psychedelic radio stream, and this is most obvious between tracks as their boundaries become blurred by white noise, bursts of warped static and snippets of caught radio transmissions. This concept does thin out a little later in the album, but there we are. There is a big use of synths here, a continuation from MPP, but it’s not as immediately obvious as it was before purely because every track just has so much additional “stuff” going on, and yet it all seems to have its own little space reserved; sometimes it’s at the fore but quite often it just acts as a subtle textural entity; nearly every track is an impossible myriad of electronic twangles and warbles that each somehow manage to ride the chaos and make it a compelling listen.
The accessible pop side of AnCo, which has been slowly refined from Feels, is brought right in at the start with the incredible “Moonjock”. While perhaps it is not quite representative of the album’s overall sound, it truly is them at their addictive and insane best. As Avey sings about driving home in his beat-up old Camino, it slips into a mesmerising climax towards the end as he sings “ran out again” breathlessly over and over, accompanied by intense guitar, percussion and wild electronica. Thoroughly groove inducing; if this doesn’t make you excited for the upcoming music then I don’t know what will.
It ends somewhat abruptly but slipstreams straight into previously released single “Today’s Supernatural” via a rush of radio sequences. Again the pop sensibilities are being carried forward and we see definite verse/chorus distinctions emerge (“Come on and LELELELELELE GO!”). This is perhaps the posterchild track of the album due to its memorable and distinctive lyrics.
“Rosie, Oh” is some kind of 60’s throwback with a distinct Beatles feel. While it is something of a stretch to say that this album has a persistent sound/theme, it does feel very much out of place compared with the others (and I personally don’t enjoy it at all). Luckily my favourite track of the album chases it up, “Applesauce”. Once again we are thrown into a bouncy and jovial atmosphere filled with Avey’s excitable vocals, hugely emphasised by Panda’s percussion. The chorus is by far the best though; each line climaxing as the Deak power slides on the guitar.
Speaking of which, Deakin actually has a track of his own, “Wide Eyed”. There’s a somewhat repetitive feeling to the backing melody here which is a bit disappointing, but the lyrics speak volumes to me of parenting and his concerns.
“And why all these doubts?
And what are all these doubts?
I see in her eyes that I’m holding her fine but all I’m hearing is doubts”
As we move into the latter half the tone seems to get a bit more melancholy with the ambiguous and uninterpretable lyrics of “Father Time”, moving into the downbeat Panda Bear track “New Town Burnout”. It’s been criticised a bit for sounding too much like his Tomboy album but it actually fits really well, what with its shuffling beats and violin string fragments.
As we reach the last few tracks I start to feel like I feel when I listen to Merriweather; tired. A lot of the original, excited energy from the early tracks is somewhat absent and I start to get a little bit sick of the unstoppable tumult of weird noises and bloops. In both “Mercury Man” and “Pulleys” a lot of the power has been sucked out and the melodies becoming increasingly less complex. In some ways it’s something of a nice warm down as the album begins to wind down but I just wished they’d kept up the ferocity and put in “Honeycomb” and/or “Gotham” in their stead. “Amanita” does swing me around in its closing moments though, I must say.
Overall, I am really, really enjoying this album, just in case you couldn’t tell. Jesus, I’m at 900 words already; if that’s not indicative of my love for this I don’t know what is. Sure, there are some weaker points near the end, IMHO, but there are also some singular stunners. As an entire entity I’m not 100% sold on its coherency but it doesn’t bother me too much, there’s just so many intricacies and little oddities to enjoy throughout that it more than makes up for any larger failings. Utterly brilliant release that I know I am underselling; there is simply too much content here for me to detail, just listen for yourselves.
p.s. Centipede Hz > Here Comes The Indian > MPP > Strawberry Jam > Feels > Spirit They’ve Gone. Personal opinion, obviously