How To… Animal Collective

Have you ever tried to listen to Animal Collective because a friend told you they were awesome only to find that it was just a bunch of garbled noises and beeps and yelling?  Well you’re not alone.  Many people find this to be their first experience with the Collective in question.  Well fear not good listener, I am here to save the day, nay… your life.  Animal Collective is in fact as awesome as your friend made them sound… no really, they are.  It’s only a matter of perception.  When talking to a friend of mine a while ago, I described the first time I listened to an Animal Collective album as opening a 5,000 piece puzzle and dumping it onto the table in front of me.  Let’s start slapping that puzzle together, what d’ya say?

First thing’s first, who or what is Animal Collective?  Animal Collective is a band made up of four artists, each of which go by stage names… oooh how artisty .  They are as follows; Noah Lennox(Panda Bear) vocals/drums/samples, David Portner(Avey Tare) guitar/vocals, Josh Dibb(Deakin) synthesizer/vocals, and Brian Weitz(Geologist) samples/vocals.  They’ve been friends most of their lives and ended up peddling their crazy aural wares to the huddled masses.  I saw them in concert about a year ago, they seem like pretty cool dudes.  That’s the who.

Here’s the what.  Animal Collective’s music is either very busy or very sparse.  There really is no in between.   However, when it is busy, it is exceptionally busy.  This streets of india-like busyness is the number one gripe I hear regarding their material.  Here’s the funny thing about that.  When you get used to it, the busier their music gets, the better it gets.  To sit with headphones blasting this chaos against your eardrums and peel apart the layers of sound until you uncover a new melody or set of beats that literally gives you goosebumps is nothing short of sublime.  It does take a bit of patience to get to this point.  Now for the how…

Where To Start


Strawberry Jam

Start with either 2005’s Feels or 2007’s Strawberry Jam.  These albums are split pretty evenly between the busy material i was talking about earlier and the sparse, almost ambient material.  Songs like “Grass” and “Peacebone” are good for the rowdier more upbeat music fan while songs like “Banshee Beat” and “#1” are ideal for the laid back easy going listener.   Either way, it’s best at first to just let the sound rain over you and take it in as a whole.  Hear it as it appears to be.  Crank up the volume after a couple of listens and start to listen for subtleties and intertwining melodies.  They’re there, I assure you.  In these hidden gems is the beauty of Animal Collective.  The catch is that you gotta find em for yourself.

Moving Onward

People EP

Water Curses EP

Fall Be Kind EP

I would head to these EPs next.  These are some of their best work.  Songs like “Tikwid”, “What Would I Want Sky”, and especially “Water Curses”(my favorite song of theirs) are prime examples of the best of what Animal Collective can lay down.  I warn you, DO NOT come here first.  You will run away and probably never come back.

Where from here?

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Now you can head to what many called the best album of 2009.  Merriweather Post Pavilion is slightly overrated in my opinion but it’s certainly incredible nonetheless.  “My Girls” is the clear hit here along with my favorite song on the album, the ridiculously danceable, “Brother Sport”.  This is AC’s most accessible material to date, though accessible probably isn’t the word for it.  The music on this disc is really satisfying but it’s not their deepest work.  If, after you take my advice from this post, you still don’t like Animal Collective, there is a good chance you will still like this album.  That’s why I saved it for last.

Animal Collective has written some of the most beautiful and entertaining music I have ever heard.  I hope you can at least give them an honest try.  It would be a shame to miss out on a great artist like this just because you didn’t give them enough of a chance.  For those of you who now hear what I hear and not just a bunch of noise, I’m truly happy for you.

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