Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

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There’s definitely an unnamed pressure, an expectation if you will, for a band with the batting average that Animal Collective has had for the last 10 years. What it must be like to produce a follow up to the perfect wisking of sugar-crack melodies and fuzziness that was 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion. Long time fans know whatever happens from the Collective will never be the Direct-to-DVD sequel that is often the expectation of the follow-up but it doesn’t make the acceptance of the new direction any less of a expectation. Thankfully some bands do whatever they damn well please.

On their 9th studio album Centipede Hz, Animal Collective take some distance from the Panda Bear-heavy hooks–the kind of immediate infatuation that brought “My Girls” to the coffee shop playlists–but returns with the quartet playing more angular songs. Animal Collective have always been a band that respectfully ignores fan’s expectations and wants, rather opting for what entertains their own curiosity. The sounds here are murkier, each song segways into the other with low-fi radio pieces, the connective tissue as ribbons of oscillations through every corner of the album.

“We like to imagine what an alien band might sounds like, especially if they were catching snippets and phrases of radio frequencies off the earth,” Panda Bear told Pitchfork.

The album opening “Moonjock” follows Avey Tare through a recounting of a childhood road trip, listening to his headphones in the back of a station wagon, singing us into the beginning of a journey the way we fondly looks at unpleasant teenage outings with the family (“And mom she was our singer and we kept alive on greasy fries/I held onto my stash of jams that ran along in Michelin time”)

It starts with analog radio signals, tuning in and out until cymbals crash open the track, a change from previous production. On Merriweather Post Pavillion  AC went to length to mask the traditional instruments with a soccer riot’s worth of effects, daring you to guess what was a synth and what was at one time a drum or bass line. And that process worked by focusing the listen on the music and not distract with mental images of men doing guitar wanks.

In a natural evolution of their sound, almost every track here shows the band in instrumental form–unheard since the Freak Folk Feels. Bits of keyboards peek through (“AppleSauce”), basses bounce (“Rosie Oh”), and drums–those drums–they’re the organic war march that fuels Centipede.

“New Town Burnout” longs for feelings of comfort (“When I make it/Back home/I’ll take my shoes off/I’ll take my coat off/I’ll leave my belongings alone”). “Monkey Riches” debates the merits of nostalgia (“But why am I still looking for a golden age?/You tell me that I ought to have a golden wage”) and life goals (“Every time I look up at that blurry sun/All I think about are bodies floating up”). Deakin returns, and like a good friend that hasn’t been seen in awhile, he startles at first, taking lead vocals on “Wide Eyed”, but feels right at home.

Animal Collective is an amorphous blob of audio turning into whatever they feel like they are at any given time. Band members come and go and their sounds change but never does the quality suffer. Centipede Hz may be an alien inspiration but there couldn’t be anything more human than these earthbound four.

The Blow – From the Future

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The blow is one of those bands you accidentally downloaded off Kazaa, became fascinated with, listened to late at nights in bed and in long car rides alone, then years later find out that all your friends know about, and they’re as secret as Boca Burgers.

It’s been forever since we’ve heard new stuff by The Blow and the assumption was that they’d slipped into the hiatus oblivion forever. “From the Future” is a plesent September surprise, making every past fan gleek at the synth’s bass heavy bounce paried with Khaela Maricich’s big sisterly voice.

She can still channel the “Hey Boy” angst we got on past albums like when she confesses her existential crisis (“I fear the future/ Or I fear that there won’t be one all”)  then lets us know how it messed with her daily life (“The moon screams in my ear ‘ stay up all night'”), it’s the kind of mental uncertainty all artists go through where  they measure their days left on earth, spend less time sleeping, and waste all this energy on worrying about death when it could have been used to create. The lyrics, while simple, are telling and intimate, like we’re reading from an adult’s diary. It’s easy to see Maricich telling us, in ernest, she’ll never be a pop star, and making herself all the more in the process. Let’s hope she continues to share alone time with us all.

The new self-titled album The Blow is out in October

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Music is given so much criticism that even when something as vibrant and off kilter comes along, the seething voices will not be far behind to tear it down like a sandcastle on the beach or a long game of Jenga. Swing Lo Magellan is just this oddity; a pop album crafted with subtle complexities. An, at first, difficult listen, rewarded with patience.

Lead Projector, Dave Longstreth’s voice wobbles and stretches in earnest fascination, grabbing your attention on the chorus to “About to Die”, singing “You’re already dead/ but you’re about to die”, addressing the futileness of questioning our existence and worrying about our deaths–because we’re all destined for a too-soon end. But the track is immediate in it’s demand for attention, fronting the listener with a percolating drum loop, possibly giving spoilers for what’s to come.

This is what’s really delicious on a Dirty Projectors album, all the strange sounds and risks that come with each track. On earlier albums we were given contemporary Gregorian chants, and while it may have been toned down from the days of The Getty Address, we still hear awesome vocal-driven melodies on “Offspring are Blank” and”Gun has no Trigger”, while  “See What She Seeing” and “The Socialites” play with honey pitch bends–both sweet and unique in their differences (“The Socialites” brings to mind a cat meow put through a wah wah pedal). But what really hits this album out into the parking lot, is the simple title track, “Swing Lo Magellan.” it is undoubtable that this ended up on a thousand summer playlists, for it’s guitar, snare, throat combo. Just try not to melt a little at lyrics like, ” Swing lo oh Magellan/nine by six or eight by seven.”

“You’d see a million colors if you really looked,” Longstreth sings in front of the doo-wop, swooning, choir of Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle. This line, so perfect, paints a self-written review of Swing Lo Magellan in more strokes than any review could give it.

Be Sure to check out Dirty Projectors live this Sunday, September 30th at The Pabst Theater.