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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Animal Collective
Feels
Fat Cat

Rating: 9/10 ?


January 2, 2006
As Simon Reynolds has pointed out, the whole New Weird America thing seems at its core to be about the desire to disappear, and while Animal Collective's members might argue against being considered conspirators in the psych-folk underground, their body of work prior to Feels has lent credence to Reynolds's hypothesis. From their faux shamanism to their meandering open chord jams, these guys have always seemed more content to fade into the ether than to extend an open hand (or heart) to the listener; whether we listen to Sung Tongs or Campfire Songs, the Collective always seem to have a barrier or smoke screen intact to keep the listener at bay.

While Feels is by no means a venture into the confessional narrative, it does stand as Animal Collective's most open, earnest outing to date. The album begins with one of the group's common modes of escape - the retreat into childhood - but like Jim Carey's character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, these songs' protagonists seem to be able to hide only so much of themselves in their memories. The first four songs are not only the most unabashed pop tunes the group has ever penned - they're also the most vulnerable. Single "Grass" bottles young love's stomach butterflies in jars of melody, weaving a complex, Smile-esque silkscreen of twisting vocal lines into a manic scared shitless/hopelessly enthralled march. The song's contorted melody never loses its momentum, and this inertia boils over into the lyrics: caution and insecurity ("You'd be very happy if I touched her there / I was very nervous") must be cast aside to address more practical matters ("Would you like to see me often?"), leaving a knot of unresolved questions behind. It's the sound of one's life moving faster than one's heart and mind, and it erupts into an understandable response - a chorus of wordless "ooo"s and violent contrapuntal screams. This resolution might still be a form of retreat, but this time Animal Collective give us the lump-in-the-throat backstory.

"The Purple Bottle" also finds emotionally-charged communication breaking down into idiosyncratic language. It's another do-Brian-Wilson-proud love song, but a puzzling motif engulfs its central subject matter. The speaker only seems to be able to describe his relationship in terms of purple, and like a Faulknerian image, the color seems more deeply rooted in layers of inexpressible personal significance than in an emotional or physical tenor. We're made to feel like voyeurs, looking into the corridor of another person's soul and receiving the ineffable imprint of his deepest emotion, and yet we still never get the complete story - it's the realization of the spiritual tongue that Sung Tongs's nonsensical incantations hinted at.

While Feels's pop songs begin in retreat, indulge in confession, and end in confusion, its more textured, hypnotic tracks reveal themselves to be surprisingly transparent. When the singer intones, "I'll take my time," over a wispy electronics and harpsichord in "Bees," it's easy to take him at his word. Whereas Animal Collective always felt like they were running away from the listener in their earlier jams, their long-form songs now offer as much clarity as their more accessible material. Their moods are just as distinct as the pop songs', and their composition just as deliberate - just witness the remarkable build-ups in "Daffy Duck" and "Banshee Beat." The last half of Feels might seem like a retreat from the first half's open-diary feel, but its kaleidoscopic 4AD sheen really mark a more refined take on the sonic absolutism in which their early material almost exclusively dealt - like the Cocteau Twins' best material, the final leg of Feels is ace soundscaping tempered with an eerie pop sensibility.

While escape still figures heavily in Animal Collective's aesthetic, it becomes a more mature and complicated tactic in Feels. Until now, Animal Collective always seemed to be holding back a bit, hiding behind psychedelic flourishes to counter their innate melodicism and to make us work a bit harder to figure out what they're up to. With Feels, they dispense with the vapor and pot smoke and create their most fully realized impressions yet.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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