Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Music Library: Animal Collective + Catch-up: Acetone, Andrew Bird

Animal Collective - Sung Tongs. Man, this is sonic perfection. Just as hazy and trippy and pleasantly disorienting as any evening spent intoxicated with some of your oldest and most-loved friends camping miles away from civilization.

Animal Collective - "Baby Day" (B-side to "Who Could Win A Rabbit?" single). Not as great as any song on Sung Tongs, but a lovely blend of electronics and Beach Boys-like singing.

Animal Collective - Feels. Wait, THIS one is sonic perfection. This is what summer days during college felt like when I didn't have to work or go to school and had no plans other than hanging out with friends, maybe trying to find a pool to jump into, taking my dog for a hike in the woods, jumping off a cliff into Lake Nichols near Tuscaloosa, or just plain sleeping in the sun. I love the hell out of this album.

Animal Collective with Vashti Bunyan - Prospect Hummer EP. I love Vashti Bunyan's solo albums, especially her first one from back in the early 70s. Joe Boyd writes about how much he believed in her despite her nonexistant sales. As he was with many artists, Boyd was right. This collaboration is lovely and dreamy and pastoral, with Bunyan's honey-smooth voice dripping over the sharp edge of many of Animal Collective's other recordings. I don't know if I'd actually enjoy an album-length collaboration, but an EP is about a perfect length.

Animal Collective - Grass single. Since "Grass" is on Feels, I have only the two B-sides. "Fickle Cycle" is not all that great, and "Must Be Treeman" is actively annoying.

Animal Collective - Peacebone EP. "Peacebone" is also on Strawberry Jam, but this came out first, so I bought the single as wells as the B-sides. B-side, singular, really. The only track that isn't "Peacebone" or a remix thereof is "Safer," which is practically ambient with noise and unusually clear vocal (for AC, at least) front and center. The two remixes are neither necessary or illuminating. In fact, the Black Dice remix is annoying (they attempt some sort of approximation of the sound of the tape being eaten in Neu! 2, but it just doesn't work) and the Pantha Du Prince remix is just plain boring.

Animal Collective - People EP. I like the song "People," even though there is almost nothing to it. This EP has a studio version and a live version. The other songs are decent, too, if not as immediately arresting as anything on Feels or Sung Tongs.

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam. This is the next full-length album after Feels, and it's a bit of a disappointment. The music is colder, relying on loops and noise over guitars and drums and losing, in the process, the neat mix of organic and artificial that marks Animal Collective's best work. Pushing the vocals to the foreground was not a great move, either. There's a few standout tracks, but overall Strawberry Jam's not one of their top-tier albums. I find that I like it more now than I did when it came out.

Animal Collective - Water Curses EP. I just bought this last night, so this is my first listen. It sounds a little more organic than Strawberry Jam, but it's not up the the heights of Feels. Very, very good, though. I'm interested to see where they're going to go from here.

Here's a few albums that slipped through the cracks up to now.

Acetone - If You Only Knew. This was a gift from a friend, so I wasn't sure what to expect. From the cover, I was guessing rootsy alterna-rock from the late 80s. Instead, it's lovely dream-pop pitched somewhere between Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers album and the Velvet Underground's self-titled third album. Without vocals, you might think it to be an outtake from Luna or Yo La Tengo. With vocals, it's its own thing.

Andrew Bird - Fingerlings. Live tracks from around the time of The Swimming Hour. Like that album, they sit somewhere between the retro-swing sound of Bird's earlier work and the forward-looking oddball-indie music.

Andrew Bird - Fingerlings 2. As Fingerlings is to The Swimming Hour, this is to Weather Systems.

Andrew Bird - Fingerlings 3. And, likewise, this to The Mysterious Production of Eggs. By this point, you can hear how Bird has perfected his ability to loop in real time onstage, suggesting a much larger ensemble than he actually has.


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