Collective Brings Back the Old and Welcomes The New

It’s been a long path for Animal Collective. The band takes its inspiration from whatever it finds interesting at the time, proving to be one of the most resourceful acts in modern music. With albums like the tribal and confusing “Here Comes the Indian” to the catchy, electronic “Strawberry Jam,” there’s never a dull moment with these guys. It has made quite the journey from head-scratching obscurity to perhaps the most touted band in the so-called “indie” community.
Along with “Strawberry Jam,” “Sung Tongs” and “Feels” received much acclaim from critics and fans alike, and the band’s following has grown along with its pop sensibility. However, calling it a pop group would be a great injustice. In fact, it is hard to describe the Collective with any sort of specific adjective, it is much easier to just describe the quartet’s records. With its new EP, “Water Curses,” the group gives its fans some leftover goodies from the “Strawberry Jam” sessions. While the record starts off somewhat familiarly, the EP, like any other Animal Collective release, is very much unique.
The title song “Water Curses,” sounds a lot like many of the songs off of “Strawberry Jam.” There is very eccentric instrumentation with relatively subdued vocals, with enough going on to keep any fan quenched. The track picks up at a frantic pace with vocalist Avey Tare following.
The peculiarity of the band is something that its audience loves. But it shows time and time again that it can change tempo in the blink of an eye. “Street Flash” is a song to get lost in. Tare’s quirky lyrics have a certain irresistible charm to them, even if you have no idea what they mean. He quietly and convincingly sings, “I’m so sorry I came in late this evening / But all the clocks around the town had died.” After all the constant activity in “Strawberry Jam,” it’s nice to have a few tracks that remind fans of how the band was consumed by the mellow minimalism during the second half of “Feels.” After “Street Flash,” “Cobwebs” follows with similar relaxed percussion, and focuses on the small bits of atmosphere added throughout the song, as well as the controlled vocals. The ensemble chanting that permeates the second half of the track gives a taste of how the combination of these voices swept so many fans off their feet.
“Seal Eyeing” closes the album with its calm. The song is practically just a piano accompanying an introspective Tare. It ranks amongst the most tranquil songs the band has ever done. There is very little it has not already accomplished in its career, but this amount of restraint is always a welcomed sight. So many times fans think of everything the group can do at once while making a song flow that they can forget the beauty in something as simple as just passive, scattered sounds, Tare’s voice and a piano.
“Water Curses” is a nice treat for longtime fans, and it’s also a nice segway for its new fans into older records. After the opening song describes how much was going on during “Strawberry Jam,” the last three songs capture the band completely stripped down. The EP gives you a glimpse of what the group has just done and then quickly moves on to what is next. It is just another day in the life of Animal Collective.