Review Summary: This is Animal Collective at their finest folks, inviting everyone in to see them at their peak and loving the freedom that comes with being on top of the world.
To one who’s been following Animal Collective for the past couple years, it’s fitting that Animal Collective’s newest EP is called Fall Be Kind
. On one level, you have the fact that Animal Collective has crafted a wondrous mini-album of songs that specifically recalls the wonders of autumn, just as Merriweather Post Pavilion
did with winter, Strawberry Jam
with summer, and Feels
with spring. However, on another level, you can recognize the delicious irony of a band releasing an EP that is in every way not
a fall from the heights they reached on Merriweather
. Fall Be Kind
is the sound of a band brimming with excitement at the reception to the swirling electro pop they brought to us on Merriweather
, and they’ve expanded on it, pouring on the harmonies and thickening the beats that made Merriweather
such a success.
At first glance, the album (I might as well be calling it that for all its cohesiveness and unified purpose) sounds like Animal Collective at their most celebratory. Golden sunshine-y pop hooks are abound in Fall Be Kind
, which of course make it easy to latch onto and delve into, much in the same way Merriweather
was. However, unlike Merriweather
, here there is a keen self awareness in Noah and Avey. Dripping from Fall Be Kind
is the feeling of a niche carved, the album reveling in its trance elements yet maintaining a very distinctive, very addictive
pop core. One of the things that makes Animal Collective so exciting is the band’s penchant for blending hypnotic passages with immediately striking melody, and this is no different on Fall Be Kind
. “Graze” and “What Would I Want" Sky” both set up incredible payoffs with three minute crawls through dark forests before breaking into euphoric merriment that comes with the escape (check out that pan flute solo!). Animal Collective have retained that mastery of ecstatic excess and Fall Be Kind
wants us to recognize it by throwing its most accessible tracks in the foreground. This trademark skill to convey sheer unadulterated joy is used liberally throughout the album, as Animal Collective encourages dancing and singing and general foolishness, and of course they get what they want. To remain still during the ending of “Graze” is to be inhuman. In fact, at first glance, it’s not so unreasonable to argue that Fall Be Kind
might just be the brightest release of Animal Collective’s career.
Still as Fall Be Kind
sinks in, one can sense something else, a slightly darker quality Avey Tare hinted at in interviews leading up to the EP’s release. The content of Fall Be Kind
suggests a maturity in the act’s songwriting. Instead of childlike marvel and blithe spirit, Animal Collective, having grown fully aware of their popularity, kind of sound like, well, adults
. This concept might be off-putting to those who loved Animal Collective’s ability to capture Wonder
, but they should fear not. Animal Collective have maintained that simplicity, just pointed it in a different direction. Sure, “What Would I Want" Sky” is about a communal sense of loss and doubt, but Avey still dresses it up with his unique style of ambiguous metaphors. ”Are you taking it lightly" Lost in the flurries/ You start to worry/ You will be buried/ Taking it lightly/ And so I hurry/ I start to worry/ Here come them flurries
” he sings on the track, appearing more immediate and open than he ever has before, yet still shrouded in the ambiguity that the whole band revels in. It’s indicative of Animal Collective’s sudden crossover appeal; the band now finds its greatest hook (ever!) in a Grateful Dead sample, and it’s not so hard to imagine “What Would I Want" Sky” finding a place in rock rotations. The darker shades of brown uncovered with repeated careful listens simply adds to the appeal; Animal Collective have whittled down their eccentricities to a level that, while remaining distinctly AC, is remarkably understandable and lovable.
Yet through this “everyone-can-enjoy-it” style (If you thought “My Girls” was poppy…), Animal Collective never pander or sound unnatural. It sounds like they’ve had these songs in them for years, and now they have the maturity to allow themselves to reach out and grab the hands of their eager fans. Avey is delivering vocals with very much the intention of being understandable, and when Panda Bear gets in on the act with “I Think I Can,” a brilliant reimagining of “Guys Eyes,” you can hear the Brian Wilson hooks just wanting to be eagerly noticed by rock critics and avid Person Pitch
fans. The band has always used the duality between Panda Bear and Avey Tare successfully, but make no mistake: the overall sound of Fall Be Kind
is that of the unity Animal Collective discovered on Merriweather Post Pavilion
. The harmonies that drenched every single track are still there, whether in the jig context of “Graze” or the back and forth snickers of “I Think I Can.” The communal sense of purpose is never more evident on the way Avey and Noah trade vocal wails in “Bleeding” or the joyous choral ending of “What Would I Want" Sky.” This is Animal Collective at their finest folks, inviting everyone in to see them at their peak and loving the freedom that comes with being on top of the world.