Animal Collective's "Fall Be Kind" EP Review

11/30/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Alexander Pinto

With the release of "Merriweather Post Pavilion" last January, Animal Collective suddenly departed the realm of “cool”--where they had a handful of well-liked albums under their belt, and were a favorite of indie-media standbys like "Uncut" and "Pitchfork"--and shot headlong into a critical gush-fest, not only from indie outlets, but from mainstreamers such as the Boston Globe, The LA Times and Billboard. Or, in social terms, AC went from the headphones of aloof dudes smoking cigarettes to the stereo system of any given weekend college party. The change was welcome, if unexpected--people of all tastes seemed to dig the catchy, hypnotic, and somewhat dance-able songs.

Almost a year has passed since then, and the "Fall Be Kind" EP, announced earlier this fall and released last week, has come out to similarly emphatic reviews.

Indeed, it’s hard to find much bad to say about the five new tracks. But it’s also hard to find much to go nuts for. The band has kept repetitive, washy, tinkling synth as its music’s foundation, and sonically speaking, much of the percussion from "Pavilion" reappears.  That said, they definitely have toned down the fireworks. The songs creep by subtly in a fashion closer to Collective member Panda Bear’s solo material--quiet almost to a whisper, minimalist in its progress, unfolding more like an ocean current than the crashing waves and smooth lulls of "Pavilion." (One exception being the rather absurd and festive latter half of “Graze.”) Those hoping to hear more of the attention-grabbing, off-beat thunder of “Daily Routine” will be disappointed. So will those looking for lightning to strike twice with another “My Girls”--easily the most obsessed-over song ever made by any Collective associate, thanks to its pleasant feel and irresistible chorus. Maybe on the next LP.

That current-like nature of the songs on the EP causes the listener to have a “what just happened?” feeling when the music stops--no single song is memorable enough to distinguish itself, and rarely is even a part of a song distinguishable. This could be considered awesome (for fans of "Panda Bear," definitely) or kind of disappointing, but what is certain is it’s a slight backtrack from "Pavilion" toward the avant-garde home from whence AC came.

Lyrically, AC remains a love-hate. The subjects are frequently domestically themed--and literal--possibly to a fault. In “On A Highway,” cute poesy (“Hypnotized by sun strokes/ passing by some dead bones/ flowers for the dead grow”) sits beside unfiltered literalness: “There are some workers pissing/ its starts my bladder itching/ can I wait for the exit?” Whether you appreciate the frankness of the words as refreshing or brush it off as lazy writing, the themes--if tonally more somber--remain in the same arena, and the style of writing has changed little.

The music is definitely well done and has that special AC tone that can’t be found anywhere else. Any Animal Collective fan, decade-old or "Pavilion"-new, will enjoy these songs. But if the EP is any indication, another head-bobbing, smile-inducing, trip-out, full-length album experience is not in the cards. Chalk this one up to a single, organic, mellow experience and leave it at that.

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