There are certain bands, within the hipster community, that are code words that members can identify each other with. These are bands like Broken Social Scene, Sigur Ros, and Arcade Fire (before they got big and “sold out” [ugh]). Although I don’t consider myself to be a part of this sub-culture, I am familiar enough with the music and scene to be able to comment intelligently on it. No band has come to symbolize hipster elitism and inaccessibility more than Animal Collective. This reputation doesn’t exist without reason. Trying to analyze or review an Animal Collectives album is always a difficult task and their 2005 LP Feels is no exception.
My formal introduction to Animal Collective came through their 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion. Much like Radiohead’s Kid A, this was an album that I just did not get at first. It was like someone decided to make a Beach Boys record but to stuff it through full with LSD and electronica. I was not prepared. However, multiple listens revealed it to be a quite appropriate successor to the cultural and musical legacy of Pet Sounds and tracks like “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” quickly became favorites and the album itself now holds a hallowed place for me in the indie pantheon of music. Feels is not like MPP. Each Animal Collective album stakes its own style claim. Only Radiohead and the Beatles are able to successfully recreate themselves as often as these guys do with such positive results. Instead of the electronic sound of MPP, Feels has a heavily guitar sound, of course with the typical AC distortions and technical flourishes, i.e. looping, multi-tracking, etc. It includes two of my favorite songs from the group; “Purple Bottle”, a fast paced manic ode to love that is so wide-eyed in both its sincerity and strangeness and also “Banshee Beat” a strange but haunting track that seems almost too much like a “typical” indie rock song to be AC but yet works on some unlikely levels.
This album really is not for everyone. It’s about as accessible as a David Lynch film or trying to watch a random episode of “The Wire” with no knowledge of the characters or intricate plots. I enjoyed it a lot but even I didn’t know what was going on half the time. Avey Tare and Panda Bear distort and screw around with their vocals so much that it is often hard to understand what in the hell exactly they are saying. Yet if you like Beach Boys or the legion of indie bands that they would go on to inspire, you should at least check this out. It’s going to take multiple listens to crack this album and even then, you probably still won’t know what exactly you listened to, but all things that are great and worth examining require a little work.
Final Score: B+