Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #2 - Animal Collective

When it comes to Animal Collective, people tend to fall generally into one of two camps. You either think they're geniuses, trailblazers of an entirely new style of not only rock but music all together; or you think that they're a complete joke and their music is the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. There's really no in-between. The former is usually composed of critics and fans who listen to such an inordinate amount of music that the mind eventually thirsts for something, ANYTHING that upsets the norm. They want music that they sometimes may not even love upon the first listen, because they want the music to earn their affection. And so they listen and listen to the layering and the samples and the hooks and the loops until they can make some sort of sense of the jumbled mess coming out of their speakers. Melody and instruments become an afterthought in the quest to find music that confuses them. This is the type of music that Animal Collective makes, it's the type of music that tends to turn critics on their heads, and it's also the type of music that their fans want. I happen to fall into that group when it comes to these two camps. I love music that confuses the hell out of me, I think that's what it's there for.

It's not so much the originality of their sound for me, it's their sheer mastery of it. Listening to Animal Collective is like watching Synedoche, New York. Either you get it or you don't. You can marvel at the dexterity of it all, or you're bored to death by it. It's really that simple. Avey Tare and Panda Bear always seem to pick the exact right spots to insert their distinguishing vocals, and their use of African drum beats mixed in with any sort of sample and hook you can imagine wind up amounting to the Beach Boys on a bad acid trip. Though listenability is certainly subjective in the eyes of many, one thing that isn't up for debate is originality. And, for me, it's not so much the inventiveness that's at the forefront of everything they do, it's their recognition that the freedoms they take in each album are best served to the listener if they're carefully controlled. Animal Collective makes music that you can only decipher with a good pair of headphones, and perhaps that's why I love them so much.

In what wound up being a hilarious performance due to his reaction, David Letterman was dumbfounded when they played Summertime Clothes on his show earlier in the year, and not in a good way. But that's the entire point I'm trying to make here. Either you love them for upsetting the status quo or you point and laugh at them for it. Me? I think they're fantastic. I think that they remind us all that sometimes you need to just shut up and explore things with a purely open heart and ear without precondition, and I hope they never get tired of working together.

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