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Arts and Entertainment

CD Review: Animal Collective's "Strawberry Jam"

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Artist: Animal Collective
Album: Strawberry Jam
Label: Domino Recording Company
Release Date: September 10, 2007 - Today

I know there are some folks who hate my reviews so maybe this is the band for you. When I first put this CD on in my car I was pissed because I had thought I'd blown my speakers out - imagine my relief in discovering that my speakers were fine and that it was simply this recording that was missing the entire lower half of the sound spectrum.

Throughout all of Animal Collective's songs is the pervasive tinny keening of millions of insects through which pierces the reedy voice of 1/4 of the band, Avey Tare, who oscillates from singalong yodeling to screechy screams. All the songs have a layer of psychedelic reverb that sometimes makes discernment of instrumentation impossible.

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I'm not saying that all of this is bad and I'm not about to say that I "get it" for every set of recordings that get handed to me but I do have to say that I had a hard time with this one. The song where everything seemed to mesh perfectly, where the rhythms and reverb complimented each other, where the melodies and vocals (both screeched and sung) came together beautifully, was "For Reverend Green" found midway through the album. When looking through a microscope, as you move the lenses towards each other, you start with a blur, then you have a moment of clarity where you see this other world of amoebas, plankton, cysts and spores, and then you move on by and are back into a haze of fuzziness and outlines. That's exactly what this record was for me.

This doesn't mean that there aren't denizens of this world, who live and breathe this kind of music. Obviously I'm an outsider but I found at least one song to latch onto, a message that Animal Collective communicated to me. Maybe it's a production thing, maybe I'll be able to read more into the next CD, I'm certainly willing to give it a try. Maybe seeing the band live transcends the many limits that recordings can impose. We have our chance to see if this is true:

Animal Collective play in LA on Tuesday September 18th at the Henry Fonda Theater.

Animal Collective's very funny/weird "Peacebone" video:

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