Everything and All the Kitchen Sinks: Animal Collective’s CENTIPEDE HZ

 

MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION is a masterpiece of an album.  It’s an album that feels like an anomaly — like the stars had aligned just right for the band to make it.  There was a sense upon listening to MERRIWEATHER that Animal Collective would never make another album like it, and in subsequent years, this has been true.  The FALL BE KIND EP was a darker affair that moved away from the concise pop of their previous full-length album; ODDSAC was a visual album (created in collaboration with Danny Perez) that ranks among some of the most psychedelic output of the band.  So now, three years later, Animal Collective releases their full-length followup to MERRIWEATHER: CENTIPEDE HZ.

Compared to past albums, CENTIPEDE HZ feels a bit more song-centric than previous albums have.  These songs don’t hold the same atmospheric/ambient qualities that past output of Animal Collective use, especially in comparison to FALL BE KIND.  Instead, this album feels like the band is throwing every sound they can into a blender — at times, it feels messy, but it never feels disorganized.  There’s a method to the band’s madness that allows songwriters Panda Bear and Avey Tare to craft great pop songs covered in psychedelic and noisy trappings.  Shifting between electronic synthesizers, percussion, and samples/loops, it definitely feels like an Animal Collective record: highly rhythmic and at times primitive, it’s the psychedelic pop that listeners have come to expect from the band.  CENTIPEDE HZ is the longest album the group has recorded since their debut, but it never feels drawn out or long

CENTIPEDE HZ announces itself with opening track “Moonjock.”  With the opening seconds of this track, it’s apparent that this is going to be different than MERRIWEATHER — it’s stomping beat launches a bouncey and infectious melody.  The lead single, “Today’s Supernatural” continues the band’s manic progress.  Avey Tare’s motif “Let let let let let go!” is impossible to ignore, and it gives off the impression that the band is reinvigorated and revitalized.  Another standout is “Father Time;” the song’s funky rhythm leads into some incredible melodic moments.  Using a perfect blend of sample/loops and organic instrumentation, it hits a satisfying sweet spot.  “New Town Burnout” stumbles a bit in trying to find its footing – it’s notably slower than other tracks here, and the melody never quite reaches that of its neighbors.  CENTIPEDE HZ doesn’t venture much into the darkness, except perhaps with “Mercury Man,” a song that feels both haunted and paranoid.  The closing “Amanita” shines in a few spots with an interesting last-half, but for the most part, it’s affectless in its delivery.  It’s a somewhat disappointing ending to the album (as compared to MERRIWEATHER’s “Brother Sport” or FALL BE KIND’s “I Think I Can

After listening to CENTIPEDE HZ, I was left exhausted.  It’s just shy of an hour long, but there’s not a wasted moment of the album: nearly every second is packed with something interesting.  Mixed with songs of every volume and speed, Animal Collective have left no sound uncovered in making this record.  It’s not as consistent as some past releases, but it’s a strong album that warrants multiple listens.

I’m not the biggest Animal Collective fan, and I loved this album – chances are, if you like the band, there will be plenty moments-of-interest here.  If you’re unfamiliar with the band, I would recommend starting with the ultra-accessible MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION before making the leap to other releases.  If you’re among the ranks of listeners who didn’t see what all the fuss has been about – this isn’t the album to win you to Animal Collective’s side.  Essential tracks to download/sample: “Moonjock,” “Father Time,” and “Today’s Supernatural.”

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