Review Summary: Prospect Hummer is Animal Collective's best EP, standing on its own rather than as a collection of album outtakes.
Animal Collective's 2005 EP Prospect Hummer
could be seen as a kind of companion piece to their 2004 album Sung Tongs
. Not yet reaching the mysterious full-band sound of 2005's Feels
, the EP still retains the freak-folk sound of Sung Tongs
. However, despite having the same instrumentation and general sound, the EP is far from a rehash of Sung Tongs
. All this starts with Animal Collective's recruiting of folk legend Vashti Bunyan to record the EP with them. That she accepted truly attests to the project's importance; at the time, Bunyan had only recorded one album: 1970's Just Another Diamond Day
(her second album, Lookaftering
, would be released a few months after Prospect Hummer
). Bunyan's voice, a wispy, delicate coo, would be ill-suited to the spontaneous and childish nature of Sung Tongs
, so Animal Collective take after Panda Bear's 2004 album Young Prayer
and cool it down a bit, showing an all-new side of Animal Collective. In the scheme of things, the EP is just one facet of a mind-bogglingly multi-faceted band.
Despite the fact that the first two songs are actually outtakes from the Sung Tongs sessions, Animal Collective adapt the songs to a different musical environment. "It's You," the best song on the album and one of the band's best to date, starts off with a whispery note by Bunyan, which is then backed up by seemingly endless layers of guitars. As the rest of the band join in and the guitars persist, the end result is a beautiful example of freak-folk at its best. Bunyan takes front stage here keeps the song pulsing, singing simplistic but effective lyrics in a softly mesmerizing voice. The title track is a little more reminiscent of Sung Tongs
, improving on the dull "Kids on Holiday". Once again, Bunyan contributes vocals here, singing the delightful "woah woah woah" refrain along with the rest of the band. The song also features more of Animal Collective's admittedly inane lyrics, but Bunyan and the band sing them like they know exactly what they're talking about, and want to say it.
Even if Bunyan's appearance on the EP marks an important, if small, comeback for an extremely mysterious artist, this is still Animal Collective's EP. "Baleen Sample," the only track that doesn't feature vocals by Bunyan, is similar to Sung Tongs
' "Visiting Friends," spreading out drone-ish background noise with incessantly strumming guitars. However, Animal Collective show restraint here: while the latter track went on for a monotonous twelve minutes, "Baleen Sample" barely breaks the five-minute mark. The track is still a little inaccessible for any unacquainted listeners, but is much easier to swallow than its Sung Tongs
counterpart, and is overall a pleasant experience.
The fourth and final track on the EP, "I Remember Learning How to Dive," brings back Vashti Bunyan for a small folk ditty in classic Animal Collective style. The song is subtle but enjoyable, and a perfect summation of Prospect Hummer, for the most part only featuring guitars, Bunyan's multitracked vocals, and tapping percussion. Barely over two minutes, the song may seem a little slight, but it shows a simplicity in structure that is refreshing for Animal Collective: rather than letting the song wander and slowly come back to Earth, they make sure the song gets its job done, and end it there, before it travels anywhere unnecessary.
To call Prospect
Hummer an innovation would be overzealous; rather, it takes a musical side of Animal Collective everyone knows, and dusts it off, showing that there's still some magic in those acoustic guitars, even after they've seemingly been used in every way possible by the band. With the recruiting of Vashti Bunyan, Animal Collective show that, while constantly creating new ways to make intriguing music, they respect and embrace their folk roots. While sometimes showing the slightest bit of bad habits on Animal Collective's part, Prospect Hummer
is a triumph; instead of conforming to the role of a musical footnote like most EP's seem to, it stands on its own as an independent musical work.