ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: Strawberry Jam (Domino Recording Co.)


Posted on Sep 20th 2007 01:10 pm

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Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam
Domino Recording Co. 2007
09 Tracks. 43mins31secs

Two years after the wonderful Feels, the quartet of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deacon reconvene on Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective’s seventh album, their first for Domino, and it is very much business as usual. Except that Animal Collective don’t really ‘do’ usual. If they have undoubtedly developed a unique musical style, each one of their albums has seen them go in new directions, taking them from the molecular drones of Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished (2000) and the lo-fi of Campfire Songs (2003), to the luxuriance of Here Comes The Indian (2003), the psychedelic brushes of Sung Tongs (2004) and folk grain of Feels.Since Sung Tongs, Panda Bear’s influence on the band’s overall sound has been much more evident, indicated by a shift toward structured songs and elaborate melodies and arrangements. Partly the collaborative fruit of Avey Tare and Panda Bear, with Geologist and Deacon drafted in for further writing sessions, Strawberry Jam continues to build on the dichotomy of Tare’s all out experimental approach, openly expressed in his extra curricular projects, with Eric Copeland as Terrestrial Tones, or, more recently, with wife Kristin Anna Valtýsdóttir, formerly of Múm, and the Brian Wilson-esque pop effervescence of Panda Bear.

Where Feels largely drew its energy from acoustic brushes with only a light dusting of found sounds and electronics, Strawberry Jam thrives on raw electricity and proudly wears its voltage on its sleeves. Right from the onset of Peacebone, any reminiscence of gentile folkery is blasted into oblivion, replaced with electronic flourishes, fuzzy processed electric guitars and surface noise. As the album progresses, there is further evidence of this shift. The exhilarating Chores and Winter Wonder Land for instance have the urgency of the band’s live incarnation, and For Reverend Green, undoubtedly the standout track here, grows into a high density pop song, complete with How Soon Is Now-like grinding guitar in the background and primal screams securely screwed on top, while on Cuckoo Cuckoo, Tare twists an underlying piano lament and smears it with surges of energy. Elsewhere, #1 bows under a cascade of sequenced electronics, and the catchy Fireworks erupts in all sorts of sonic riches, from phased guitars and drums to a joyful piano motif for the chorus. The album closes with Derek, Panda Bear’s soft-hearted ode to a dog, which rises from a bedding of sleigh bells and acoustic guitar into a much more urban beast as tribal drumming takes over.

In many ways, Strawberry Jam is much more consistent than any of its predecessor, and the band’s determination to retain the raw energy of the original sessions contributes to make it one of their most contrasted efforts too. Far from softening their approach by introducing clear melodies and refining their sound, Animal Collective retain the very essence of their work and put with this compelling and addictive piece of pop an overall brilliant performance.


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Comments (7)

7 Responses to “ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: Strawberry Jam (Domino Recording Co.)”

  1. mapsadaisicalon 25 Sep 2007 at 9:56 am

    Nice review. I think I’d give the first 5 tracks exactly 6.7 out of 5. Tails away towards the end though, don’t you think?

  2. themilkmanon 03 Oct 2007 at 11:30 am

    Reading what The Wire had to say about this album got me a bit nervous about it. Then I heard the album and realised that, whoever had written the review probably still had to hear the album.

    I agree that the album tails off a bit at the end, although I really love Derek. For Reverend Green is possibly my favourite AC track with Grass.

  3. mapsadaisicalon 03 Oct 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I was in a pub somewhere in East London last week, and the DJ played For Reverend Green – it sounded great. You should have been there.

  4. themilkmanon 03 Oct 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Must have been someone with good tastes…

  5. onecasemanon 05 Oct 2007 at 9:13 pm

    What’s this business about the record tailing off at the end? “Cuckoo Cuckoo” is the best song here.

  6. themilkmanon 10 Oct 2007 at 1:16 pm

    I think I understand where Scott comes from, as the first half of the album is really strong, but the second half still really carries well. I think that the most memorable tracks are perhaps more concentrated in the first half, although I stand by what I said about Derek, and you’re right, Cuckoo is also a brilliant track.

    Now, for the killer question: best album of the three: Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Avey Tare’s Pullhair Rubeye or AC’s Strawberry Jam?

  7. […] but also with the European public. The move to Domino three years later and the delivery of Strawberry Jam seemed to propel them from indie darlings to on-the-verge-of-mainstream weirdoes almost overnight. […]