Tag Archives: Neo-psychedelia

Animal Collective – Centipede Hz (2012) Review

If one term could to be used to describe Animal Collective, it would be “acquired taste”. Throughout the bands strange and boundary-pushing career they have prided themselves on releasing music that is just as shocking and difficult as it is catchy and inviting. The band honed all of their most accessible intricacies in and came up with their commercial breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavillion in 2009. The album was pop and electronic bliss, hoisting a super slick production that was also very warm and lush. If you could call an Animal Collective album “accessible”, that would be the first one on the list.

The big question is, however, when you’ve reached the breakthrough – especially when it is on your eighth studio album – where do you go next that you haven’t gone already? You are at a creative peak; you’ve found a sound that both critics and average music listener’s love, and now you’ve got to keep momentum going. Do you just put out Merriweather Post Pavillion 2, which would likely get you more solid radio play but maybe less love from critics? Or do you forge a new path, offering something new rather than cashing in on past success? Well, Animal Collective never makes the same album twice, and the heightened acclaim and fame that Merriweather Post Pavillion gave them certainly did nothing to change that.

Centipede Hz, the band’s 9th studio album, is the bold counterpoint to their previous album. The production is jarring and in your face instead of smooth and polished. Songs like “Moonjock” and “Today’s Supernatural” start off the album with a literal and figurative one-two punch. You hear very thick and pounding percussion which eventually becomes more and more layered to the point of becoming an electronic frenzy, and this madness does not let up much at all throughout the album. What is also notable is that Avey Tare is singing most often on this album, which likely explains the more bombastic sound compared to the last album. His singing and style is much more energetic and rambunctious compared to Panda Bear, whose sound came through the most prominently on Merriweather Post Pavillion‘.

As the album goes on, we are given some breathing room with a midsection that is a bit more reserved and ethereal. “Wide Eyed”, which is performed by newly returned member Deakin, is a simple and catchy tune that has the same looped instrumentation for the entire track. Deakin’s vocals aren’t anything special, but the lyrics are actually very strong on this track which makes up for it. “Father Time” features a more leisurely pace though it still has Avey bouncing along even though he’s a bit more hushed on this track. The finale of the cool down comes with Panda Bears second and final track on the album, “New Town Burnout”. It’s 6 minutes long, and it uses the longer run time to craft a slow burning and rhythmic tune that also gives a little more emotion than most tracks on the album.

However, the most emotional – and frankly best – song on the album comes by the way of the closer, “Amanita”. As the song begins we are immediately hearing a very dramatic synth that is accompanied by tumbling and quick drum beats. Avey Tare sings about tradition falling by the wayside, and fearing that it will be gone forever. “If it’s going hiking, then I’m going hiking.” The song trucks along as Avey continues to wonder what will happen to all of the familiarity and warmth that is going away and asking, “What have we done?” Then, about halfway through the song in what is perhaps the best moment on the album, the song erupts. An enormous explosion of synth and fast drum beats permeate the background as a much more upbeat Avey Tare tells the listener what he’s gonna do to set things right again.

“What are you gonna do?
Go into the forest
Until I can’t remember my name
I’m gonna come back and things will be different
I’m gonna bring back some stories and games”

It’s just a flat out masterpiece that hits you on a level that is more personal than perhaps any Animal Collective song that has come before it.

Centipede Hz is a great album that both challenges the listener accustomed to the bands recent pop tendencies, but also gives them familiarity with extremely catchy melodies and beats. The band has proven to become one of the premier experimental/electronic acts of our generation, and continue to release gem after gem. It might not be a revolution in terms of sound, but when you create something this good, who cares? The fact of the matter is the band is extremely good at what they do, and they show no signs of running out of ideas. Animal Collective, please keep doing what you’re doing.

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Genres: Neo-Psychedelia, Experimental Rock, Electronic


Tame Impala – Lonerism (2012) Review

It’s tough to be a band that finds immediate success with their debut album. When you storm out of the gate with the bar raised so high, often times most bands aren’t able to live up to it on the next release. Tame Impala had the best chance of letting me down this year, because their debut album, Innerspeaker, was one of my favorite albums of 2010. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the band’s follow-up, Lonerism, is even better. It’s an album that is much more concerned with revealing its emotional core compared to its predecessor, which results in stronger songwriting and melodies.

The process of this album began immediately after their debut was released in 2010. Songwriting ensued while touring that LP, and as a result this album has been recorded in several different spots around the world; such as Austria, France, and the band’s native land, Australia. This type of recording process is perfect for the mastermind of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker. He once again does nearly EVERYTHING on this album – all instrumentation, vocals, and songwriting, bar two songs that are co-written with live drummer Jay Watson – and as a result gives him a lot more freedom to do what he wants, whenever he wants.

The first song released from the album was “Apocalypse Dreams”, a whirlwind of psychedelia that goes through 3 different stages that are all mesmerizing. It begins with a foot stomping drumbeat, accompanied by very rhythmic piano and a solid bass groove. Kevin Parker surprises on this song as he often sings in a register higher than he ever has before. A midpoint mellow breakdown leads to an eventual eruption of synth in the songs finale. The song itself is about the chaos of life and trying to make sense of it all. “Am I getting closer? / Will I ever get there? / Does it even matter?” It’s simply a fantastic song that is both similar to the debut but at the same time goes in completely different directions that make it fresh. Would this be what fans could expect to hear more of on the album? Oh yes.

Lonerism is a practice in sonic chaos, back-lit with sincere yet carefree lyrics that gives the album a “well, the crap’s hitting the fan but I’m not gonna get too wrapped up in it” vibe. It opens with “Be Above It”, a stunning song that has perhaps the best instrumentation that Kevin Parker has released yet. It begins with a looped whispered vocal saying “Gotta be above it”, which is then followed by drums that mimic the looped vocals. These drums quickly become distorted and fuzzy and are followed by very psychedelic synth. The most amazing thing about this song is how Kevin Parker is using all of these different instruments to form a sort of wigged-out orchestra. The drums distort into a ball of tension that is released and shot out in a wave of huge synth that has what I can only describe as a slingshot effect. Quite simply; it’s breathtaking.

These effects are continued on many other songs on the album, but there are lighter moments that are presented more clearly as a sort of respite from the madness. The LP’s 4th song, “Mind Mischief” has very clear and vibrant guitar riffs and drumming, accompanied by spacey but joyful vocals that are extremely catchy. The lead single from the album, “Elephant”, is a similarly straight-forward song, which has a heavy and bluesy riff that is quite different compared to anything else on the album. Kevin Parker says that this is one of his oldest songs that just never got recorded, so the difference in sound is expected. However, he gives it a fittingly spaced-out midsection that keeps it from being out of place on this album.

The biggest surprise on the album – which is also one of the highlights – is the closer, “Sun’s Coming Up”. It is a piano driven song that is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme, but the music is completely offset by heart-wrenching songwriting about possibly losing someone forever. It’s the most emotional song on the album – I’d say the most emotional song Parker has ever done – and it’s a phenomenal way to close this colossal hurricane of an album.

Kevin Parker is more concerned with making an album as a cohesive whole rather than a pack of songs unrelated to each other. The album flows perfectly, but that’s not to say that the structure is at the expense of creativity or surprises from individual tracks, which I think Parker felt partially restricted by on the first album. He was concerned with the template for the first album; making sure that everything was in the same box. This time around he’s drifting away from that box, and the places that he’s ending up in are very rewarding. There are a lot of different ideas on Lonerism that all blend together not to form a jumbled mess, but an album of incredible ambition and scope that is near-perfect in all facets of its execution.

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Genres: Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock, Neo-psychedelia