Review Summary: As always, Animal Collective provides a record bursting at the seams with a vast and colorful array of textures and noises, even though its cluttered and messy disjointedness admittedly makes it a tad bit disappointing.
Expectations seem to be set the highest after an artist reaches the peak of their career. Debut albums that garner acclaim may give audiences high hopes for the success of a band in the future, but when an artist continues to deliver quality material album after album, and as they rise up over time and gain a reputation of consistently putting out quality material until the build up results in an ultimatum of the artists abilities, fans will depend on the artist to deliver upon the bar of standard they feel the artist has set.
Animal Collective arguably reached their peak in 2009 with their eighth, and universally considered best studio album to date, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Being their most successful album, it’s understandable that audiences may expect the band’s follow-up album Centipede Hz to follow in the footsteps of the same formula of success of Merriweather. After spending their career exploring different approaches to their sound and finally hitting the nail on the head with Merriweather, it would only make sense. However, being the heavily ambitious and experimental outfit that they are, it’s not in Animal Collective’s style to go about an album in the same method as before, even if that method happened to be the one they have had the most success with.
The album accumulates the bubbling synths that glisten with sparkling production, and the winding psychedelic flows that have both become defining factors in Animal Collective’s sound, but this typical oddball style and these obscure rhythms aren’t anything in the way of extraordinary or progressional for Animal Collective’s experimental sound post-Merriweather. Fans of Merriweather may hope that Centipede Hz contains more of the same, but for an always forward-thinking band like Animal Collective, this turns the musical ideas of Centipede Hz into conventions of Animal Collective’s own renowned ideas.
The approach on Centipede Hz seems to favor the sheer amount of layers upon layers of sounds over any sort of neat organization of them. Merriweather displayed the group’s poppiest spin on the staples in Animal Colective’s sound by concentrating on sharp and well-groomed production, so it seems that to differentiate with Centipede Hz, the group aimed to put more emphasis on these noises and textures by simply packing each individual song full with even more complex amounts of elements than before. This notable increase in complexity and volume results in a more rock oriented impression than pop, but also unfortunately results in a very scatter-brained album.
Songs are stunningly complex with different elements, yes, but the music isn’t sprawling and spaced out as wide as Merriweather was for listeners to be able to identify and appreciate all of the music’s varying attributes. Songs give a first impression as being very messy, with all the many layers being piled on top of each other, resulting in a very dense atmosphere that feels constricted and suppressed from achieving the heights it strains to reach. Each song starts off as a blast of contrasting patterns that is all over the place the entire way through, and collapses into a garbled mess of noise after a short while. This comes at the price of the quality of the music being affected when the stacking of layers ends up muffling some intriguing aspects of the songs, such as the percussion, that find themselves buried to a sometimes indistinguishable extent.
There is always a method to the madness with Animal Collective, but Centipede Hz just comes off as only madness far too often, with the method being so lost among a rush of convoluted tracks with unbalanced aspects that it detracts from the listening experience, and makes it difficult for listeners to appreciate everything that is going on in the music. This makes for a mediocre, but above all, disappointing record by Animal Collective’s standards.