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Animal Collective - Feels

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Artist: Animal Collective

Album: Feels

Label: FatCat

Review date: Oct. 5, 2005

Animal Collective's transition from startling freak-out act to reliably gratifying pop troupe is squarely mapped out on Feels – the conventions are presented in abundance and stamped with the official seal, from the propulsive beats galloping beneath billowy guitar chords to the guileless lyrics and tentative harmonies. Live, these songs move with all the intent of tectonic plates: giant trampoline expanses of sound saturated with jittery and frayed guitar tones, barely liminal shape-shifting ruptured occasionally by feral drumming and supremely pleasurable vocal melodies. On Feels, the flotsam is mostly brushed under the rug. What we get is Animal Collective playing a solid collection of Animal Collective songs, sans masks.

Animal Collective's perennial success was marked by a shitstorm of critical acclaim in anticipation of 2004's Sung Tongs and, following its release, an equally enthusiastic round of applause. The vaunted eccentricity of the band's song cycle – the members, whether together or apart, have released at least eight records in the last three years – culminates on Feels in a coolly orchestrated series of charming gestures that, repeated ad infinitum, threaten to become platitudes. There was a hint of imminence to 2002's Here Comes the Indian, which was all bold splotches of inchoate sounds and percussive clatter, and more than a bit of germinal genius in the twisted pop ramblings of Sung Tongs. Feels, though it contains some of that intrepidness, is so refined at times it borders on the insipid. The sense of unease that threatened the controlled veneer on the band's last two records is replaced by what might be called pop professionalism as the band settles into its position as a symbol – the avatar of a certain formula of canned weirdness.

"Did You See the Words" introduces Feels with a subdued harmonium drone accompanied by sounds of children laughing and birds whistling – these might as well be the band's 'Windows' sounds – which are soon joined by rollicking drums, a complementary quivering guitar chord, and a circular piano riff, all of which endure throughout most of the next four minutes. (This is the archetypal 'high-energy' song. Feels has four of these, three protracted 'low-energy' songs, and two that fall somewhere in between.) For the most part, the rest of the song, and the record, is dominated by Avey Tare's shifty vocal melodies. These are cleverly wrought, but too callow to buoy the entire album. And while possessing a certain inimitable élan, his voice is that of a willful sprite rather than an age-old soothsayer in prolonged adolescence – it rarely conveys anything beyond heartfelt bedazzlement in the form of frustratingly vapid lyrics.

Feels is still a strange and, at times, wonderful record – even a misstep for Animal Collective bears an excess of riches. The resplendent chimes and messy vocal harmonies on "Loch Raven" make for a crawling hymnal that almost extinguishes the memory of the bloated "Bees." On "Banshee Beat," amidst a few guitar chords tracing a barely tapped rhythm, Avey Tare's fairy tale whispering finally disappears among the other sounds, turning the song into a sort of plateau that teeters back and forth until all that's left is its hovering profile.

By Alexander Provan

Other Reviews of Animal Collective

Here Comes the Indian

Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished/Danse Manatee

Sung Tongs



Strawberry Jam

Water Curses

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Fall Be Kind

Centipede Hz

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