Just by looking at the cover of Animal Collective’s highly-anticipated new release, Strawberry Jam, you could instantly tell this band is far from conventional.
Animal Collective is a group of experimental musicians based in New York City consisting of Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). The band is often lumped into the genres of “freak folk” or “psych folk,” among others, but are very hard to classify because of their constant desire to experiment with new ideas. Their previous albums have featured obscure samples, spacey background noises, and, above all, infectious pop-rock melodies. The odd mix has garnered the band a cult following over the last few years.
Strawberry Jam, the follow up to 2005’s critically-acclaimed Feels, is definitely the band’s most accessible release to date. However, it still retains the same honesty and adventure that made their previous albums so memorable. Strawberry Jam opens with the bouncy and fun “Peacebone,” complete with steel drum samples and choppy electronic loops. The result is an undeniably catchy pop song backed with carnival-like samples and alternately sung/screamed vocals for emphasis. The band slows things down a bit with the playful “Unsolved Mysteries,” which features lyrics about man-eating sharks in order to humanize Jack the Ripper. Amidst a slew of odd background noises, such as bubble samples, Animal Collective sings, “But I feel like I’ve got to duck/?when you look at me with your green eyes.”
“For Revered Green” follows soon after and uses a guitar-distorted sample backed by Panda Bear’s tribal-like drumming to create an epic masterpiece. The track flows seamlessly into the beautiful “Fireworks,” which is one of Animal Collective’s best songs to date.
The second half of the album delivers just as well as the first, with the spacey and enchanting “#1,” followed by “Winter Wonder Land” and the wild “Cuckoo Cuckoo.” These tracks all lead up to the charmingly catchy closer, “Derek,” about a child’s pet dog.
Strawberry Jam is a wild adventure from start to finish, showcasing Animal Collective’s unique ability to create songs and catchy pop melodies in some of the most unconventional ways.
We can only wonder where they are going to take their extraordinary talents next.