Veritas Est Rock

Paul Karner

Having formed in 1992 as a friendly and enthusiastic collaboration,
Animal Collective has since managed to forge a new rock aesthetic
with an unwavering ferocity beyond even the most conventional rock bands. It’s this all-or-nothing mentality that seems to be the single
unifying element in their music. Their most recent release, entitled “Feels,” is as eclectic as their previous
albums, with its wide range of textures and moods. However, it is the way in which these often irate musicians allow the songs on the album to burst and bloom into mini-epics that makes this album so remarkable. While rock musicians
attempting to span the globe with their musical palettes often spend more time trying to steer their songwriting off the beaten path, the songs on “Feels” seem to pull the musicians along like a helpless kid walking his crazed Doberman.
This kind of freedom and seeming
lack of restraint that gives the Animal Collective their inviting glow runs deeper than a simple lack of inhibitions. There is rarely an article or review that fails to mention
the presence of traditional or nostalgic elements in their music, perhaps the most striking being the liberating and often abrasive use of vocals in their songs. The layers of voices and orchestrated shouts follow
in the footsteps of Brian Wilson without the clichd harmonies that have since been diminished into a prescription rather than an artistic statement. Animal Collective’s use of the voice as such a versatile instrument is noteworthy to say the least. From the anxious articulations
in “Banshee Beat” to the haunting mutterings in “The Purple Bottle,” the vocals on “Feels” are downright infectious.
The songwriting throughout the record is far from haphazard as well. The second track, “Grass,” with its belted choruses and jangling
accompaniments, harkens back to John Lennon’s more raucous
anthems. “The Loch Raven,” on the other hand, makes use of Eno-esque ambience as a basis for its anxiously delicate crescendo. There is a sense of confidence permeating throughout this record that only comes from a truly seasoned
group of musicians.
It is possible that the confidence and vivacity that I’ve praised thus far could be perceived as a bit self-indulgent. Though, a certain rock columnist would respond rather defensively to this claim, on a second
glance I would have to agree wholeheartedly. The only quotes surfacing from the somewhat elusive
members of Animal Collective usually entail the words fun and/or happiness. Self-indulgent – all negative connotations aside – just might be an apt description of the creative process behind an album like “Feels.” Perhaps these guys took out their protractors and rulers
in attempts to assemble a hit record, but listening to this band feels too good to be contrived.