Apologies are in order for every other indie band that recorded an album in 2009. They didn’t have a fighting chance: 2009 will forever be known as the year of Animal Collective. Resident indie gods among us, Animal Collective set the bar in early January with the innovative Merriweather Post Pavilion, garnering an obsessed cult following claiming Animal Collective as the “true” indie rockers among a sea of pseudo-indie rockers. In a day and age when indie rock has become almost a misnomer, Animal Collective is making music that’s indie in every sense of the word. It’s actually independent: The band has its own style, trumping the paltry, generic indie rock being manufactured by so many record labels today.
Fall Be Kind
Fall Be Kind is the perfect conclusion to a banner year for Animal Collective. Instead of trying to top the success of Merriweather, the EP’s sound explores a similar realm, tempering with trippy synths and loops while employing a chillier, melancholic demeanor.
Opener “Graze” unfolds in a sleepy spiral, with the juxtaposition of fairy tale-esque strings, twinkling piano keys and Avey Tare’s continuous chants “let me begin,” leaving listeners in a blissful daze that — out of nowhere — launches into a renaissance fair jive. Yup. Complete with pan flute, courtesy of none other than Zamfir the “pan flute dude,” the second part of the song seems to come out of nowhere. But a lack of fluidity is what makes Animal Collective sound so definable and unique — with all its twists and turns, what remains is a joyful mess of seriously complex sound.
“What Would I Want? Sky” is next, with the EP’s easiest listen. Convoluted with the band’s characteristic strangeness, dizzying vocals are interposed with water-imitating feedback and crashing cymbals that gradually float into the clouds. Halfway through the track, a dreamy melody is exposed, intertwining with a simple drum beat, bursting chimes and the aid of the Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain” over Tare’s probing vocals, “Is everything all right? / You feeling moany? / You feeling stony? / You’re not the only.”
The meld of the Grateful Dead as the main event could have left the track feeling slapped together, but it proves to be one of the breeziest recordings of the band’s career. Parts of the track feel like a full-on pop song that could easily go mainstream. Following in the footsteps of upbeat, catchy tracks like Merriweather’s “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes,” “Sky” is a masterful creative endeavor that will likely garner the band an even wider fan-base.
“Bleed” and “On a Highway” are moody, foggy ballads that are similar to the eccentric, abstract quality of tracks on earlier albums like Feels. “Bleed” is an eerie, haunting interlude that sets the tone for the final darker tracks of the EP. The textured track coarsely meanders along, trading off emotions with the alternating lyrics “I feel hopeful” and “I feel shameful,” before morphing into “On A Highway.” “Highway” deals with the torments of loneliness and boredom that come with the life of a touring musician. Over sonic waves, electric synths and echoing vocals, Tare depicts life: “I let some hash relax me / Get lost in human pleasure.” Those hippies.
Fall concludes with “I Think I Can,” using snaps and claps to return to the upbeat demeanor of the EP’s earlier tracks. While EPs can often times feel like a hodgepodge of songs left off of various albums, Fall Be Kind is the epitome of flow and cohesion. With this EP, Animal Collective ends a chapter in its career of creating psychedelic, innovative outfits.