Review Summary: Animal Collective further expand their pop prowess, while holding onto their freak-folk aspects and perfecting them.
Alas, less than a year since Animal Collective’s overwhelmingly received album Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Animal Collective have already released an E.P. This led to a specific thought in my head; like most bands who release ep’s shortly after a hit album, it is probably just an extra dose of the same material on the previous album, put out to satisfy their newfound audience craving more. This, however, is definitely not the case with Fall Be Kind.
This new EP is the bee’s sweater(a term I have craved to use in a review). There first song I heard was Graze. It started off with Avey Tare’s extremely improved vocals crooning over sweeping synth sounds, somber piano lines, and the wind and creeky-like sounds AC has been so good at creating over the years. Right away I noticed the more “orchestral” sound that Avey Tare had mentioned in a pitchfork review a while back. I was already quite interested in this ethereal little track until the song broke down into a building up beat…….as the beat continued for a few seconds, the echos over it suggested some sort of aggressive, in-your-face section approaching. And it came………..PAN-FLUTE JAM MOTHA***A!!! The boys from Animal Collective then proceeded with a great, celebratory Beach Boy-esque vocal chorus.
A brilliant start so far.
In a way, this song is an example of what Animal Collective was going for with this EP. It seems to take their jam, looped based sound they were using at the most recent Lollapalooza, where the build-ups were continuous and very loose; and it seemed to take the poppy, brilliant songwriting that was featured on Merriweather Post Pavilion, although it has the atmosphere of their 2005 release Feels. It took these two sides of AC, sort of refined them, and combined them for this EP, compromising the interests of their old freak-folk fans and the new audience they attracted with Merriweather.
This is apparent on What Would I Want? Sky. The track starts off with a blissful jam, with Animal Collective utilizing effects and mind-numbing sweeps to the greatest use. The heavy looping of their voices and subtle guitar noodling, help build-up the pleasant frenzy of the song(this part of the song will be great for live shows, as showed at lollapalooza). However this part of the song leads to the main part of the song. Animal Collective here show a layered and matured production, to the brilliant melodic tune of What Would I Want? Sky. The brilliant production and writing of the song is comparable to the late Beatle’s work, and I’m sure the sample of “Unbroken Chain” by The Grateful Dead sure hasn’t withered this. The music on this song shows that with this EP, AC have found an even way to get their freakish noise to work in effect with their more melodic elements, as opposed to using ambience for the sake of ambience.
The next track, Bleed, is a link to earlier Animal Collective albums. Starting off with robot voices, Bleed is a peaceful, drone track. The song has nothing but a droning synth loop, Avey and Panda’s spaced out vocal trade-offs, and general nature sounds being manipulated by the Geologist. Not the “best” track on here, but my personal favorite little diddy. Bleed shows that Animal Collective have not completely left their psychedelic aspects for their pop-based tunes.
On A Highway, shows some of the darker elements Avey Tare had mentioned in an interview. Starting with nothing but the sound of sweeping cars, On A Highway is led by a subtle synth just playing chords with heavy delay. The lyrics here really stand out, as Avey Tare sings in an airy voice “On a Highway, take a mental picture, of a place that I knew; Now it’s living in me”. The chorus is spectacular with the group singing “I can’t wait….to find home” over a tribal beat. This is the song off Fall Be Kind that really feels like……umm…..Feels, with the super, ultra heavy use of echo and the exotic percussion sounds subtly added in the mix. On A Highway is a beautiful standout track, and it and Bleed incorporate some of the more deeper songwriting skills of Animal Collective.
Now I realize this is a quirky way to describe Animal Collective, but their production style at times makes me think of old West Coast Gangsta-Rap productions, ala Dr. Dre. Now hear me out; this comes to mind with the last track I Think I Can. Here are my thoughts; while Dre might have a big-ass, p-funk bassline driving the song, I Think I Can features a bouncy, looped, silly guitar line providing for the rhythm section. While Dre might sequence an MPC drum machine for a basic, hard hip-hop beat, I Think I Can instead has handclaps and hard sampled tom hits played at random times. While early 90s hip-hop usually pulls up high-pitched Moog synthesizer samples, I Think I Can utilizes a chimy, piano sound. And last, while old hip-hop often samples short lines of old R’n’B hits, I Think I Can features samples of various animals. Anyways, this song is awesome, with dual vocals that sound reminiscent of Panda Bear’s Person Pitch. The last relevant section of the song features a child-like melody and the boys singing “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”, the song then ending with ambient, melodic noodling.
It’s utterly astounding how Animal Collective can put out a release with a completely different sound from their last LP released less than a year ago. The music sort of resembles a seasonal celebration, as the title suggests. I think it was a great choice to release this in the fall. I think the only problem with this record is that the music is not as defined as it was on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Being an EP, Fall Be Kind represents a transitional period for Animal Collective, which is probably why it doesn’t sound as confident as MPP. In a way it’s not totally shocking that it doesn’t sound quite as musically upfront, due to the fact it’s an EP and it came right after Animal Collective’s most highly regarded albums. I’m sure the next album AC release, they’ll have an even better version of the sound they were going for on FBK.
So what is the proper rating? A 4.5 for now. The tunes being as excellent as they are, maybe sometime in the future I’ll bump it to a 5. But really the best thing about this EP is the musical notion it suggests for future Animal Collective albums. And what is that notion? Being the dopeness. Not that they weren’t already. Just more dope. Can’t have enough dope now, can we?