i need more power animal shirts so i can be like panda bear.
Overview/Review of Animal Collective’s Discography
Tom Milsom made a similar post a while back about Deerhoof that you can find here that I’m basically formatting this after, but this is primarily for Logan who mentioned interest in Animal Collective and I decided that I should make up a guide to help guide him and other prospective AnCo fans through their relatively eclectic discography. This overview will only cover the main band discography and not any of the solo albums or collaborations or whatever.
Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished (2000) [5.0/10.0]
This is generally considered to be the first proper Animal Collective release as it’s the first to have at least two of AnCo’s member on it, being Avey Tare and Panda Bear, although it’s not until a few albums later that they actuality settle on the name “Animal Collective”. The first thing I should get out of the way is that there’re four total AnCo members — Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin — and all of the albums feature some combination of these four members with the occasional guest musicians. Avey and Panda are the only two to appear on all releases.
I’ve only ever listened to this album once and never really looked back as it gave me a really bad headache; most of AnCo’s early work is like this. However, this album is at least a 5.0 as it actually has a number of pretty enjoyable moments if you’re willing to sit through it. It’s basically Avey on keyboards and vocals with Panda on drums and a whole load of noise thrown on top. It’s equal parts muddy, sparkling, and piercing. “Chocolate Girl” is pretty much the highlight of the album and is pretty much the sole thing that worth taking from it and is remarkably foretelling of the sort of pop songs that they’d be making in future releases.
Danse Manatee (2001) [1.0/10.0]
Maybe it’s not really fair that I actually attempt to rate this album because I’ve honestly never made it all the way through it. I don’t think I’ve even finished on song off here. I listened to the first bit, searched around later in the album for something listenable, but quickly gave up. This album probably isn’t worth your time. The only thing really notable about this is that it’s the first appearance of Geologist, but other then that it’s just a really bad noise album.
Hollinndagain (2002) [2.5/10.0]
This is a live album that was recorded around the same time as Danse Manateeand is… slightly better. I’ve actually listened to it the whole way through maybe two or three times and is kinda interesting. Just Avey, Panda, and Geo again.
Campfire Songs (2003) [8.7/10.0]
And here we have the first actually good AnCo album and is the only pre-Sung Tongs release that I’d really really recommend listening to. It’s also the first with Deakin as well as the first album to start exploring the sort of weird folky sound that AnCo became known for for a few years. This, completely counter to all of their other releases from this period, is pretty far on the top of my list of albums for relaxing and falling asleep to. Avey, Panda, and Deak are all singing in hushed voices and finger-picking looses meditative patterns on acoustic guitars in a screen porch on a cold night while Geo operates three MiniDisc recorders to document them in one single take. It’s really nice and completely different than anything they’ve made beforehand.
Here Comes the Indian (2003) [1.6/10.0]
So this is the first record with the “Animal Collective” name on it, the first where all four actual perform, but it really feels more like step backwards. It is, however, the last album before Sung Tongs which means that it’s the last album by them that isn’t any good. It pretty much follows the same sound as Danse Manatee and Hollinndagain and is pretty much just boring more than anything. But that’s okay because after this point EVERY THING THEY PUT OUT IS REALLY GOOD!
Here we go!
Sung Tongs (2004) [9.3/10.0]
This is the album where people started paying attention and for very obvious reasons. It’s still probably one of their best releases and is so ridiculously separated from everything that came before it. It’s just Avey and Panda again this time equipped only with acoustic guitars, a few drums, and various effects, belting out raucous psych-folk songs and gentle haze-filled lullaby-like numbers. People still call them a freak-folk band because of this album even though they haven’t done anything freak-folky for over half a decade.
I don’t know at what point or why they decided that they should start writing more, like, actual songs, but it was a really good decision and it worked out fucking perfectly. I not saying that all good music utilizes pop song structures, but here it feels like Avey and Panda have discovered that it’s something that they are really good at using. The songs are considerably sing-alongable compared to previous releases and are the first to really utilize the sort of vocal harmonies that the band relies increasingly on from this point forth. “Visiting Friends” is the only song that I feel really holds this album back from being greater than it is as it just kinda breaks the flow and slows everything down. But other than that, the album is really ace and is really really good.
Prospect Hummer (2005) [8.3/10.0]
This pleasant little EP is a bit more straight-forward and pastoral and even folkier than Sung Tongs, but that’s because it prevalently features vocals by British folk godess Vashti Bunyan. Track 3 is the odd one out here as it’s a sound collage by Geo who couldn’t be there for the recording of the rest of the songs. The title track takes the cake here as most memorable song.
Feels (2005) [9.4/10.0]
And they’re a full band again. Feels is, with the exception of a few songs, their most mellow release second to only Campfire Songs and I’d say is primarily characterized by it’s muddy guitar with lots of delay and a shitload of reverb applied, it’s more rock based drumming, and generally earthy and organic sound. This one took a while to grow on me as it’s initially a lot less memorable than some of their other albums, but it perfect for low-energy days and possesses a type of subtle beauty and reflectiveness that is never quite matched on any of their other albums. “Daffy Duck” is like this album’s “Visiting Friends” only more boring and more skippable, but that’s made up for by pretty much all of the other tracks.
People (2007) [7.7/10.0]
This EP is collection of songs that didn’t make it onto Feels even though it wasn’t released until a couple years later. It’s okay, but nothing great.
Strawberry Jam (2007) [8.6/10.0]
And here things get more pop-friendly and accessible and they’re starting to sound more like a rock band than anything else. The title pretty much sums up the over all feel of the record: syrupy and sticky and processed and kinda maddening sweet, but is really enjoyable and can’t help but treat yourself to it. It’s actually a lot like Feels but more sparkly and with brighter colors. This would be a really a really good starting point as it’s the band’s one major post-Sung Tongs transition point: it’s just after they moved completely on from freak-folk, but just before things start sounding really electronic. This was my first AnCo record and I used to listen to it a whole lot, but not so much any more. There’s lots of great songs on here, but I’ve been gravitating towards it less the more I listen to their other albums.
Water Curses (2008) [7.9/10.0]
Another EP of outtakes and rejects from the previous album. The title track is really good, but the others are just pretty good.
Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) [9.8/10.0]
And at this point Deakin left to go do his own things for a while leaving the rest of the band to make a new set-up to fill out the space that he occupied for so many years. They sought synthesizer and samplers, and it turned out amazing. This album is like being in an ocean of stars with schools of sound flooding passed you and brushing your face on the way. It’s incredibly busy and flooded, but also incredibly laid back. I really don’t know what else to say except that this album is FUCKING AMAZING and you should go listen to it regardless of whether you like any other AnCo album or not. If there’s one album they they’re likely to be remembered for many years down the line, it’s this one.
Fall Be Kind (2009) [8.9/10.0]
This is the same sort of EP like People and Water Curses containing music that didn’t fit on the previous major release, only this EP is really good on it own. It open with “Graze” which starts out sounding like hazy Björk song b-side everything changes and they bring in a motherfucking Zamfir sample and the song becomes an electro-baroque jam and it’s fucking amazing. Next is “What Would I Want? Sky” which, like “Graze,” is a song it two parts: first is the psyched-out electronic bass section, and the second is what makes this possibly the best AnCo song ever! Enter the Grateful Dead sample, the percussion, and the vocals and the song becomes so sunshiny and so feel good yet so somber and uhhgghhhhh…. it’s super poppy, but in a really good way. The rest of the EP is also pretty good, but it’s the first two tracks that really stand out on their own.
ODDSAC (2010) [£.ß/∆.ø]
ODDSAC is really more of an art-film than anything. The soundtrack is mostly ambient, but there are some really good songs in here that fit pretty well in between MPP and CHz but with some surprisingly folky bits thrown in. It’s pretty fun to watch as well; imagine Yellow Submarine but with even less plot and thrown in a blender with a bunch of b-horror films.
Centipede Hz (2012) [9.8/10.0 maybe]
It’s really hard to rate this album right now. It’s at least as good as Merriweather. I think. It’s such a new release and I’ve been listening to it so much it’s really hard to know how it will hold up over time.
Before this album was released, they kept hyping it up as being a return to their roots and sounding more like their earlier material, but these claim really didn’t hold up at all for me. AnCo has a tendency to get more and more accesible every release — which is kind of a scary thought if this trend continues too far — and CHz is no acception. To call this album straight-forward isn’t right at all, but the beats have gotten stronger, the hooks have gotten hookier, and it generally seems even less abstract than MPP. However where MPP was more like a pop album, CHz feels like a rock album. And that’s probably due to the set up: Panda is back behind a drum set, Deak has returned with his subtle guitar embellishments, Avey is doing a lot more live keyboard work, and Geologist is doing… whatever the hell it is Geologist does. Where MPP rushed past the listener in a current, CHz makes direct impact. How this album holds up over time is impossible to say, but I find it likely to remain strong.
Why is Slendy on the inner cover of Centipede Hz?