Introducing Animal Collective

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Introducing Animal Collective

What do you think when you hear the words “Animal Collective?”

“Automatically, I think of a bunch of hippos and giraffes just hanging out in zoo cages, but it’s not like mean, but they’re all just happy to be there and just hanging out. It’s not like they’re trapped in a zoo, but I guess they didn’t choose to be there. It’s just a collection of animals,” said senior Ali Harford.

If you replace the animals with musicians, and the zoo cages with studios and stages, you’re not far off.

In reality, Animal Collective is a band founded in 1999 by David “Avey Tare” Portner, Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox, Brian “Geologist” Weitz, and Joshua “Deakin” Dibb. They are known for their freewheeling, playful approach to music. They once made a song that only contains the lyric, “you don’t have to go to college.” Now, you may be wondering, “gee, what do they sound like?” This is where they get tricky to describe.

From album to album, Animal Collective changes and evolves to the point where they often seem like an entirely new group each time they release a new record. In six short years, they went from the minimalism of their fifth album, Sung Tongs, making use of just acoustic guitars and rudimentary percussion, to the much more elaborate semi-electronic psychedelia of Merriweather Post Pavilion. In between they tried relatively conventional rock music on their sixth album, Feels, and found a good middle ground of all their styles on their 2007 masterpiece, Strawberry Jam. This exploratory six-year period, uncoincidentally, is widely considered to be their prime.

I was fortunate enough to see Animal Collective perform back in March. They have been touring their latest release, Painting With, and they did not disappoint. Like any good envelope-pushing band, they have always been a bit insane, and that insanity was present that night. Behind the band, three giant brightly-painted head replicas, resembling tikis, loomed large. They kept the stage banter to a minimum, often bridging the gaps between songs with extended, droning segues. Animal Collective has never been a band for nostalgia, and the vast majority of their setlist was off of Painting With. They snuck in a couple deep cuts, including the extended one-chord autoharp drone jam, “Bees,” and the closing track off their debut album Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, “Alvin Row.” All in all, the show was anything but dull. Their energetic approach to live performance made it a concert to remember.

A truly unique band that strives to constantly explore new sounds, Animal Collective is one of the most interesting musical acts around today. While incorporating a strong sense of the bizarre, they have a remarkable knack for creating infectious melodies. If you’re not afraid of a little weirdness, Animal Collective is the band to check out.