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Strawberry Jam
Artist: Animal Collective
Label: Domino US
Time: 9 tracks/43:31

Animal Collective is a group of musicians who all go by pseudonyms while performing. They do not consider themselves a band, but merely a collective of musicians who get together to write songs. Their line-up varies from two to four, but with the constant supervision of the two principle members: "Avey Tare" (David Portner) and "Panda Bear" (Noah Lennox), who, incidentally, became friends in kindergarten.

The group has been gaining notoriety for a few years now, but they have veritably exploded onto the indie scene with their new album _Strawberry Jam_, their seventh album overall and first for Domino Records. It seems that everyone is into this right now, and with good reason, it is very fun. Quirky, strange, and perplexing, but fun.

Upon first listening to the album it sounds like utter chaos. No melodies are apparent, just an incessant rhythm, and the vocals range from warbly singing to shrieks and howls.  However after repeated listening, melody begins to shine through-the album is strangely catchy, but in a way that requires that you let it grow on you, which some listeners may not have the patience for.

The first song and first single "Peacebone" epitomizes the record: pounding rhythm, electronic flourishes, and somewhat nonsensical lyrics that seem to tell a story. The lyrics throughout the record fit this pattern. There is nothing intrinsically positive or negative about them, rather it tends to be slightly verbose absurdist poetry. For example, "The other side of takeout is mildew on rice / but an obsession with the past is like a dead fly." The lyrics are twistedly entertaining, but mostly act as an extension of the music.

The music itself is almost impossible to define. It is a combination of "freak folk," and psychedelic rock with flashes of jazz, electronica and metal. The most obvious comparison would be Neutral Milk Hotel. In fact, "Unsolved Mysteries" would fit in right at home on Neutral Milk Hotel's classic _In the Aeroplane Over the Sea_. Also, some of the freak-out sections remind me of Suffering & The Hideous Thieves at their most sinister. However these comparisons are not entirely fair as Animal Collective are far looser than Neutral Milk Hotel and far more lighthearted than Jeff Suffering could ever be!

This album is very fun, but only if you let it sink in. It may take three or four spins but eventually you'll be humming along to the songs in your head. Definitely not for everyone, but if you like experimental music with a penchant for absurdist lyrics, you will certainly enjoy a nice serving of Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam.

Noah Salo


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