Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam

Andy Battaglia

By Andy Battaglia

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Getting stranger as they tend toward the more conventional

Strawberry Jam assumes its place in a paradoxical trajectory that has found Animal Collective getting stranger as they tend toward the more conventional, and vice-versa. The group started focusing on songcraft on 2005's breakthrough Feels, but the follow-up takes another step, with compositions that are more rigorous in at least presenting the illusion of conventional rock songs. (It's certainly a world away from the smeary murmurs and abstract blasts of noise that mark Animal Collective's early catalog.) “Peacebone” rambunctiously sets the tone, with a pounding, primitive rhythm and manic vocals that warn against obsessions with the past and wander into choice bits of skewed wordplay (“I was a jugular vein in a juggler's girl…I was supposedly leaking the most interesting colors”). The song also spins out something like a store of traditional musical riffs, though the more you listen, the less comprehensible the tools within start to sound — hence a mix of calypso, art rock and Godzilla growls that come together to sound like nothing with any real precedent. The rest of the album follows similar cues, with highlights including “Chores” (a song sung by Panda Bear that features a gorgeous bit of would-be church music near its end) and “Fireworks” (a live favorite that careens between demonic rock screams and melodic yelps from what sound like very joyous elves).