Review Summary: Animal Collective get poppy on freak folk's catchiest 2005 outing.
“Hark” calls the child from the top of the hill, “Father is home! He brings gifts!” The children giggle at this ecstatic announcement and they run up the hill to see just what father has brought them. When they arrive at the house they run into the arms of a burly sort of man, carry a sack on his shoulder. “For you Sophia, I have a new dolly, you can call her Sarah”, says father
“Oh thank you father!” Calls out Sophia, already showering her new dolly with the love any dolly deserves.
“For you, my son, a new bicycle!” grins the old man.
“Hoorah!” whoops the eldest son
“What about me?” asks the youngest child, a sort of puppy look spreading across his chubby cheeks.
“For you Davey? For you I got these, you know, the good stuff” whispers the dad, handing Davey a brown parcel.
“What are these father?” asks Davey.
“Open ‘em up and have a peek” replies the father. Davey shreds the heavy paper envelope like it was tissue. Inside he finds a handful of brown mushrooms. “Go ahead and try one”, says father. And Davey does. 25 years later, Feels.
That is how I envision the childhood of Animal Collective singer Dave Portner going. I mean, how else does one stumble across the trippy campfire indie pop sound that the Collective so freely spew forth? In any case, Animal Collective’s 2005 release, Feels, was a critical acclaim as well as a would be pop hit (39,000 copies sold!) in the underground. The album features the band at their most catchy, sending the screaming tortured freakiness of debut, Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished further and further down the road. Panda Bear (Noah Lennox, drummer extraordinaire) is at his upbeat best for the first half of the album, delivering everything from tribal pounding to downright bombastic fills. The band could even (almost) be mistaken for a pop-punk outfit on fractured folk shout-along single Grass. But Dave is the star of the show, he has a voice that can send chills down your spine and urine down your leg. The vocals of Mr. Portner combine Elliot Smith and Bjork to produce a sullen and almost too happy coo. And Dave has the almost disturbing ability to bring about a most sinister tone to his vocals. Just listen to Bee’s, where his Alice in Wonderland esque warbling quickly descends a demonic depth. The man is truly a genius.
Every track on the album is an inspirational ball of trembling energy. Noise wizards Geologist and Deakin make their background scramblings ever apparent, but take to a more rock feel for many of the album’s nine tracks, a strangely normal departure from the band’s usual sound. Their almost electronica hook on Loch Raven is a pleasant ode to many a trip-hopper, but is also an almost jarringly different sound from album closer, Turn Into Something, which blends a mega catchy, always freaky eighties synth-pop chorus with one of Panda’s signature beats and a Nashville country twang worthy of Willie Nelson (or someone else who plays Nashville country as good as Animal Collective). Feels is just one of those records.
Plenty of tracks on this could be called the best of 2005, but only one really delivers. Banshee Beat is a water smooth ballad, full of near teeming guitar effectery and an ever so subtle crawling bass line. Slowly, but surely the track picks up, with a build-up worthy of any post-rock tune and perhaps the world’s best chord change (listen at about 2:25, you’ll hear it), finally manifesting itself into a epic, hopping pop tune. Every time Davey lets out one of his classic “Oooo’s” I get the feeling that I’m on a sea cliff, conducting the ocean’s waves with every move of my hand (see: Fantasia). It’s one of the best feelings music has ever
given me. You are helpless to the sing along, just lean back and sail away. The track, along with the aforementioned Bees launches a brigade of mellow, minimalistic freak folk tunes, along the lines of Devendra Banhart, Vashti Bunyan and Sonic Youth. And though the funky, catchy indie rock is all but gone (it makes an appearance again on Turn into Something), the album is still ever bit the glimmering, dreamy opus it was only a few tracks earlier. Feels one of the best releases of its day, and I can only hope every album they ever release will be as good.