Animal Collective
Strawberry Jam
Label ©  Domino
Release Year  2007
Length  43:31
Genre  Psychedelic Pop
Personal Star Rating [1-5]  
  Ref#  A-0122
Bitrate  192 Kbps
    Track Listing:
      Unsolved Mysteries  
      For Reverend Green  
      Winter Wonder Land  
      Cuckoo Cuckoo  
    Additional info: | top

      Animal Collective takes up where they left off with 2005's Feels, continuing with more traditional rock instrumentation (underlying a wealth of bizarre noises, rhythmic loops, and effects, naturally). The songs were written in a live setting (and polished on tours), and certainly convey that energy. They also convey the madcap experimentation that is the band's hallmark. As with Feels, or the preceding Sung Tongs, this is tempered by stellar songwriting ability, the ultimate factor in its success. The album opens with "Peacebone," an immediate indicator of the oddball, inspiring pop that follows. Its lyrics seem to be an inspirational missive on seizing the day, but then who can tell? On "Chores," Panda Bear puts in a manic sing-song with his Brian Wilson tenor, over a driving bed of sound effects and synth noises. "For Reverend Green" starts with a distorted wash of tremolo guitar and soon gives way to one of the finest pop songs the band has offered. Granted, it may not be radio pop, what with the mouth noises and surreal lyrics, but that's no small part of its charm. "Winter Wonder Land" is manic fist-pumping pop of the first order, and the crackly mellow piano sample opening "Cuckoo Cuckoo" does not prepare one for its pounding bombast. 2007 has been a typically prolific year for the band, and despite (or because of?) all their divergent pet projects, they've managed to improve with each outing. One can never quite tell what's next, and that's half the glory. Animal Collective's irreverence, absurdity, openness, and sheer melodic prowess conspire to produce yet another exceptional album. --Jason Pace

      Wireless Bollinger Review
      Rating 88/100

      Animal Collective have always been an inscrutable band. Despite being held up by the indie community as arbiters of good music, their sound is far from mass consumer friendly, due mostly to their disdain for conventional song structure and sound. While they may not garner the same level of sales or audience as Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes or Surfjan Stevens, they are happily mentioned in the same breath by anyone describing indie high-art. While they don’t necessarily belong on a second tier, they will probably remain there. At least until radios play Strawberry Jam.

      That sentence might worry the purists. Those who could previously navigate the experimental and uneasy waves of Animal Collective’s music to the heart-warming melodies and blissful wash of sound contained within found heaven. Many would happily cite them as a favourite band. These listeners had something that was not available to everyone; a reward that sometimes took work; a band that not everyone knew about with an art school aesthetic that warranted suspicion from most. The only thing the purists have to worry about is losing their niche band to a wider audience. Strawberry Jam has retained everything that made Animal Collective so endearing in the first place, and in doing so they have come closer again to perfecting their sound, importantly sounding natural rather than ingratiating.

      Instead, Strawberry Jam is a distillation and concentration of previous work, which alone should suggest the power of its charms. Dosing up the sugar, Animal Collective have relied much upon electronic augmentation rather than traditional instrumentation. While this has always been a feature, here it is more prevalent, and the result is a thick, potent sound that retains enough lightness to avoid surfeit. The clattering wall of sound and cymbals are blended with animal calls amongst the keyboards and vocals to create a shimmering pastiche of noise (one that you feel would never have existed without Brian Wilson). The opening bars of ‘Peacebone’ should lay to final rest anyone’s concerns that the band have sold out, its jumbled computer bleeps (enough to stop the mainstream listener in their tracks) slowly giving way to a melody built from vocalist Avey Tare’s nonsense vocals. Despite the unusual sound, this pristine slice of exuberant pop is immediately endearing – but that should be no surprise. Meanwhile, with Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective have actually flirted with convention, in the structural and production sense rather than aural content. The songs are rich, textured and layered to the nines, but the vocals are forward in the mix, and there is normally a drumbeat kicking the songs along. While the final sound is far from ordinary (courtesy of the filtered vocals and synthesisers, and overall weirdness), when unravelled a structure akin to conventional composition is apparent, something less so in Feels and Sung Tongs. Again, the result is a distillation of Animal Collective’s charms into a more palatable, and more potent, form.

      The conceptual twins, ‘For Reverend Green’ and ‘Fireworks’ are two sides of the same beautiful coin, each over six minutes long, they are the albums peak achievement. ‘Fireworks’ is the more up-tempo, the jittery marching beat a perfect accompaniment to Avey Tare’s urging voice, and then would-be chorus’ filtered ‘doo oo’ vocals. Musically, it is condensed elation, happy to dissolve into dense electronic arrangements, and emerge floating vocals out and above. The lyrics are as usual impenetrable, although obviously depressed, with an elusive solipsistic theme “but golden lips and Allman vibe/make me feel that I’m only all I see sometimes”. The tense ‘For Reverend Green’ also deals with conflicted happiness, the vocals falling and rising on a chugging bass, intermittently yelping before Animal Collective grab the song by the scruff and punch it home in a wall of sound. Both are achievements in themselves, able to make their extended duration a non-event, maintaining the excitement and inspiration for this period without lapse. Amongst other successes – the playful ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ and ‘Chores’ wash of sound (also very similar to Panda Bear's Person Pitch) – ‘Winter Wonderland’ is the obvious highlight. The racing vocals and infectious melody could teach Architecture In Helsinki a thing or two about making music that is spontaneously danceable minus contrivance.

      There is no doubt that Strawberry Jam is a more ambitious effort than predecessor Feels, although still closer in content to that than the previous Sung Tongs. While it is more conventional, this only has to do with the presence of a near-unifying aural theme across songs and a familiar production aesthetic. Rather than flitting from one jam to the next, as a textured whole it is harmonious. The collage of traditional instruments, electronics and organic noises, combined with filters and delay pedals create an atmosphere of pure pop music, albeit one that has had its acetate melted, warped, stretched and skewed before being surreptitiously returned. Somehow, despite the violence inflicted upon this sound, the result is a pop masterpiece.
      Premature Evaluation:

      In a year of older prayers and reversed Icelandic gurgles, our ears might've sharpened: On initial listens Strawberry Jam's lyrics are easier to parse than past Animal Collective chirps, chants, and librettos. The syllables on the quartet's eighth album (seven studio, one live) are even less stuttered than those on the lovely pop-cycle, Feels. (Of course, befitting a psychedelic swirl, storylines remain suitably jumbled.) Overlapping nicely with its title, much of the narrative's food focused: broccoli, peaches, warm cereal, mildewed rice (yum!), and eating with good friends/girlfriends. Not entirely gormandized, child-scaring fireworks/mountains, magic, Al Green, a dinosaur wing, and the past also spin through the gurgling vocal rounds…

      Recorded in Tucson with Scott Colburn, who's spun knobs for Sun City Girls (Arizona's finest) and Neon Bible (not Arcade Fire's finest), the nine songs possess desert heat with fewer stretches of weirdo ambiance; even blustery/blown-out "Winter Wonder Land"'s a melted box of Crayola's. Who cares if the tremulous, asteroid-shooting slow jam "#1" and the extended tunneling of "Cuckoo Cuckoo" are icy? Arizona does get chilly in the winter, sometimes at night. The real stars, though, are bright, sunny, infectious, tricolor trip-pop tunes, some of the group's strongest, most vibrant to date: "Peacebone" bumps along with a steel drum jangling besides a bubbly rhythm and layers of whiplash vocal effects; "Chores" laps constantly, its pinball calypso build finding a psychedelic (beach) boy-band upswing at the 3/4 mark; and the sweaty sermon, "For Reverend Green," skitters with a Modest Mousy spastic yowl (as does the excellent "Fireworks"). The band's always offered catch in their golden throats, but these tracks possess more focused dynamics: defined lead/backing vocalists, tighter structures, and bigger choruses. While the cover art's sorta gross, it does make sense: Strawberry Jam is a sweet, almost day-glo mash that leaks more interesting colors the longer you focus on it. If you prefer stranger, older, or even Sung Tongs AC, some of the shine might not be your cup of mushroom tea (no "Visiting Friends" or dancing manatees in sight), but give the record a few listens -- what's lost in length is more than made up for in its syrupy depths.

      Note: Everyone's talking Baltimore these days, but remember where Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist, and this other Deacon (er, Deakin) incubated before they spread (pun intended?) to Lisbon, New York, and Paris, etc.

      Gigwise Review
      "Filled to the brim with a disorientating cavalcade of electronic bleeps & squeals..."
      Rating 4/5
      by Janne Oinonen on 24/08/2007

      At first, 'Strawberry Jam' sounds like a determined effort to get on the listeners' nerves. The hyperactive noisemaking apparatus that burp into life at the start never let up, resulting in a cluttered cacophony suggesting all channels were accidentally left open throughout the mixing process. Filled to the brim with a disorientating cavalcade of electronic bleeps & squeals, unhinged screams, a doo-wop boxset's worth of helium-inhaling harmonies and battered beats that appear to be barely held together by chewing gum, more fitting titles for the album would've been 'Malfunctioning Analogue Synths on a Rampage' or 'Animal Collective Lose Control'.

      Keep in mind, though, that this is the art-pop ensemble whose endless playfulness and gonzoid wackiness would be borderline intolerable, did the quartet not base their off-kilter soundscapes on superb songcraft and the kind of boundless inventiveness that's bound to baffle you at first, before slapping you across the chops with its sheer brilliance. The prolific outfit's umpteenth album follows this process. Stripped-down, spontaneous and occasionally teetering on the brink of total collapse brought on by a massive noise overdose, it's closer in spirit to debut 'Spirit They're Gone Spirit They've Vanished's tentative first flowerings of the outfit's singular style than the murky textures of 2005's fantastic 'Feels', albeit the group's undeniable melodic prowess and their penchant for in-the-red skronk coexist much more peacefully this time around, due no doubt to the quartet's steadily improving skills in making the most unexpected u-turns in tone and volume yield to the laws of logic and the seemingly inexhaustible, infectious energy the platter throbs with.

      The adult concerns hinted at amongst the unsteady grooves, stuttering stone age techno rhythms and outbreaks of shrill shrieking at the spots where more conventional bands would be milking the fretboard on the likes of first single 'Peacebone' suggest the New York-based four-piece have bowed to the pressure of advancing years and made a - gosh - grown-up platter. Not a chance. 'Childlike' topping the list of adjectives used in conjunction to Animal Collective isn't due to hack-tastic laziness alone. The band's messily inquisitive approach really does evoke vivid memories of carefree childhood days spent throwing stuff together with little thought to the usefulness of the outcome or the lurid colour the carpet's turning into due to on onslaught of spills, never more so than on the bouncy 'Chores' and the marshmallow-flavoured bubblegum punk of 'Winter Wonderland', both of which hop and skip like an entire children's birthday party on an intense sugar rush, racing from one balloon-filled room to the next with much delighted chuckling.

      Elsewhere, the combo creates fresh updates of the classic pop chops of Beach Boys et al, before dragging the infectious results to their secret laboratory for an extensive course of sonically adventurous skewering. Like exhausted party guests who've stuffed their faces with cake and pop, the album runs out of steam slightly towards the end, but the first two thirds provide some of the most magical art-pop moments since, well, the aquatic epics of AC drummer Panda Bear's astounding solo opus 'Person Pitch'.

      Aptly titled, 'Strawberry Jam' resembles its namesake condiment; sweet, sticky, fruity and capable of inducing spewing if consumed too quickly. Allow it enough time to hop over the initial hurdle of unapproachable nuttiness, however, and you won't be able to stop munching.

      Reax Musci Magazine
      Rating: 5/5
      posted Thu Aug 30th, 2007 by Tristan Wheelock
      Animal Collective is a band known for pushing the limits of experimental indie rock and their latest release, Strawberry Jam, is no exception. It is an album full of frantic beats that slam around against a lot of electronic noise that could only have been inspired by the best merry-go-round ever. The Beach Boys on acid, err… more acid sound of Person Pitch, the recent solo release from drummer Panda Bear, is definitely evident especially on tracks like “For Reverend Green” and “Fireworks.” This time around the band elected to take a more electronic route with their sound and the choice is nothing short of delicious. The dreamy choruses drift along like clouds in a sky of psychedelic bleeps and bloops while singer Avey Tare’s manic volatile and very out there vocals shriek, wail and croon right along with it all, somehow keeping the whole trippy mess grounded. Put on headphones and take it all in, this is an album worth savoring. – Tristan Wheelock

      New York Mag

      Revenge of the Weirdos?
      The decidedly nonconformist Animal Collective takes New York.

      * By Andy Battaglia

      Animal Collective is as strange a young rock band as New York has ever known. They play music full of psychedelic noise, with peculiar vocals arranged in choral yelps. They answer to cryptic character names—Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deacon—and have been known to dress as giant turtles and rabbits with bloody fur.

      They also managed to draw 3,500 people to South Street Seaport for a concert this summer. Some were clearly tourists lured by tall ships and shopping, but most were fervid music scenesters eager to hear what one of New York’s underground treasures would do next.

      In typical Animal Collective fashion, the show was a mess. One member of the band flailed around while screaming and banging on things (some of them drums). Another stood behind a mixer, turning knobs and singing gorgeous harmonies worthy of the Beach Boys at their most ornate. Yet another sat on the stage with a spelunking lamp on his head. But amid this chaos of sights and sounds, they crafted a musical experience that proved transporting to those who managed to pay close attention. (Among them were Sofia Coppola and the Brazilian sixties-rock legend Caetano Veloso, who went shopping for Animal Collective CDs the next day.)

      That same otherworldly quality infuses Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective’s sixth album since starting out in New York in 2000. In its early days, the band was at the forefront of “freak folk,” a movement that laid gentle folksy murmurings against experimental musical backdrops. Since then, Animal Collective has evolved; its songs continue to meander and digress, but the mania seems driven by a greater sense of purpose. All their howls and moans and unusual tones from synthesizers and guitars coalesce into hooks that hint tantalizingly at pop.

      Sitting in a coffee shop in Dumbo, the four surprisingly shy guys in Animal Collective looked bewildered as they tried to explain their sound to me. Two of them described the new song “Unsolved Mysteries” as a “spinning wheel at the top of a pyramid.” Another new one, “Cuckoo Cuckoo,” strikes them all as a “ghost-style song.” Then, between fits of patting his hands on his legs like a twitchy child, Avey Tare piped up: “Sometimes we joke that our music sounds like it does because we all think it sounds one way when it sounds completely different to each other. There are a lot of times when we’ve written a song and it takes so long to realize that we all had a different idea of what the rhythm or melody of the song was.”

      The Animal Collective sound is so hard to pin down because it offers no easy reference points to other bands. After a decade during which the most popular New York bands have meticulously mimicked their forebears, Animal Collective has flourished, in part, by letting their roots grow wild and untamed.

      Pitchfork Media
      Rating: 9.3

      In March, Animal Collective's Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) had his breakout moment with the release of Person Pitch. It was his first solo album that didn't sound like what we'd previously heard from Animal Collective; sample-heavy and based on loops, the album's songwriting devices favored expansion and contraction over conventional chord changes. Person Pitch reflected Panda's interest in dance music-- even when it veered toward the angelic pop innocence forever associated with the harmony-drenched hits of the 1960s and 70s. Both the album and its transcendent centerpiece, "Bros", are deservedly being widely considered among the year's best.

      On Strawberry Jam, the new album from Animal Collective, it's Avey Tare's turn. It's not that Strawberry Jam resembles a solo album, or that Avey (aka Dave Portner) seems to dominate to an unusual degree-- Panda Bear is unmistakably present too, along with sound processor Geologist (aka Brian Weitz) and guitarist Deakin (aka Josh Dibb). But the specifics of who's doing what have been shuffled, and the members' respective contributions-- including who's singing at any given moment-- aren't always easy to single out. The story of this record for me, though, is the strength of Avey Tare's voice, and how his singing anchors these songs, invigorates the band's idiosyncratic melodies, and offers a clear portal into Animal Collective's utopian dreamworld.

      Avey Tare's tone has never been as aching and pure as Panda Bear's, but his is the more versatile instrument. Wild intervallic leaps-- jumping up and down full octaves, or going from a full-throated howl to a piercing shriek-- have long been his trademark, and it's something that bugs a lot of people. That makes sense: His vocal style is peculiar, and could easily strike some as affected. But the way he negotiates a song like the fourth track here, "For Reverend Green", shows just how well he can adapt his singing to fit the needs of the song.

      Over a repeating guitar delay that sounds a little like the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" and an organ seemingly pulled from the midway of a county fair, Avey follows the contours of "For Revered Green"'s sing-song melody but never seems bound by it. He explodes with a scream every line or two for emphasis-- not to highlight a word, but to convey the idea of feelings spilling over the edges of the song's expansive container. It's a sound and point-of-view associated now with only one band. A backing of "whoo-oo-oo" vocals working in counterpart to the main melody only reinforce how distinctive Animal Collective's sound has become. Here, more than on any record yet, they own that sound completely.

      "For Reverend Green" fades into the structurally similar but tonally different "Fireworks", arguably forming the greatest back-to-back in the Animal Collective's catalog. "Fireworks" is about the pleasure of simple things, but also about how hard they can be to appreciate: "A sacred night where we'll watch the fireworks/ The frightened babies poo/ They've got two flashing eyes and they're colored why/ They make me feel that I'm only all I see sometimes."

      Animal Collective are never a band I listened to for lyrics-- on those early records, they were pretty hard to make out-- but the words in "Fireworks" match perfectly the song's complex mood: There's a romantic sense of longing, an air of celebration, but also tinges of doubt, loss, and acceptance. That it's all rendered so beautifully, with tempered banshee vocals, some spacey dub elements to kick off the middle break, and one of the band's best melodies-- and layered and varied enough to have had two or three good songs built from it-- reveals the band's mastery of complex, experimental pop songcraft.

      The galloping opener "Peacebone" sets the scene; Animal Collective don't seem exactly like a rock band on Strawberry Jam. There are odd sounds of indeterminate origin, and textures vaguely associated with circus music crop up regularly. Here, the melodic buoyancy and junk-shop keyboards stomping along behind Avey Tare's voice create a ramshackle backdrop for a story of a monster in a maze, strange fossils in a natural history museum, and plenty of other stuff (when Avey gets rolling, he's pretty verbose).

      The only thing expected from an Animal Collective record that's never quite delivered on Strawberry Jam is the long, dreamy, droney builder. The album's second half is slightly more abstract than the catchy pop that precedes it, but these moments are tempered, causing the record to feel more focused. "#1" opens with a repeating Terry Riley-esque pattern on what sounds like an early-70s synth, but this is a cleaner, simpler sort of experiment for Animal Collective. The lead vocal is pitched down and vaguely eerie, but Panda's bright backing vocals really carry the piece, which seems happy to drift along without going any place in particular. The track's lack of momentum differentiates it from, say, the songs on the looser second half of Feels, but it's got its own vibe and it works.

      The record culminates with the thunderous "Cuckoo Cuckoo", its most explosive track, shifting between lyrical piano bits (not a lot of those on past Animal Collective records) to in-the-red surges of drums, guitar, and noisemakers. And then, after so many great Avey-fronted songs, Strawberry Jam closes with the folk-like "Derek", sung by Panda. The song begins with some lightly strummed guitar and water sounds and ends with crashing percussion and a refrain that sounds like a West African pop tune (a quality also present on the Panda-sung "Chores") merging with a Phil Spector-produced instrumental single. The sound is huge, but the song is a simple ode to being needed, about the pleasure in caring for something, whether a child or family pet ("Derek never woke up at night/ And in the morning he's ready to go/ And he never had a voice like you/ To scream when he wanted something"). In other words, it's about accepting responsibility and most of all about growing up, which is something Animal Collective seem to be doing brilliantly, with their creativity and adventurous spirit intact.

      -Mark Richardson, September 10, 2007

      AllMusic Guide
      Review by Thom Jurek

      The Baltimore-bred, Brooklyn-based Animal Collective have made a name for themselves by being something wholly other. Their music is convoluted, ecstatic, cluttered, noisy, scratchy, itchy and downright fun. Their last two full-length albums, 2003's Sung Tongs and 2005's Feels create an acid campfire sing out -- with everyone singing a different blissed-out tune in as obnoxious and wildly creative a manner as possible. Sounds are layered on sounds are layered on sounds and are then separated seemingly at random. But Avey Tare and Panda Bear know exactly what they are doing. There isn't anything remotely excessive about AC's excess. They have, until now, presented a holistic view of the individual through the guise of consensus-building pop noiseadelia. With Strawberry Jam, the orgiastic aural carnival sideshow begins to change a bit. There is a growing tension at work here in the music. There is Panda Bear's warm, bubbling sunshine pop that's as childlike as Brian Wilson's or Bobby Callendar's. He's got the cosmic vibe that expresses itself as goodwill toward everything. It's full of padded moments and long, shimmering, blanketing heat. Check his wonderfully accessible hippie blurt in "Chores" when he exclaims: "...Now I got these chores./I'm never gonna hurt no one...I only want the time/to do one thing that I like/To take a walk in the light drizzle/At the end of the day/When there's no one watching." Who knows who's stoned on what? Acid is too easy for this kind of happiness. On the other hand, there is Tare's utter sense of alienation, his strangeness -- and estrangement -- from the limits and inconveniences of the human body and its politics, and his questioning of his own place in human relationships and interactions. It too can express itself as a kind of manic glee, but it's far more brittle.

      That said, it makes for an utterly compelling, even obsessive listen. The single "Peacebone" that opens the album in a blur of synth and electronic noise breaks loose into a whirring, beat-driven pop song with a messiness in the mix and hallucination-inducing lyrics: "A peacebone got found in the dinosaur wing/Well I was jumping all over while the fuse was slowly shrinking/There was a jugular vein in the jugular's girl/was supposed to be leaking into interesting colors..." On "Unsolved Mysteries" with its sampled strings and pump organ, he begins to engage: "...Why must we move on/From such happy lawns/Into nostalgia's pond/And only be traces..." and then begins to grate with his questions, observations, and neurosis. Thank goodness: these two and their partners in crime are human after all! David Bowie, Philip Glass and Brian Eno can only dream about having been creative enough to come up with "Fireworks #1." Sure, their collective influence (Terry Riley's too, but he's on another plane altogether -- he's not predisposed to such abject "seriousness") may indeed have inspired the song's hypnotic glam ambiences, but they could never have glued it all together so loosely or gleefully. "Winter Wonderland" by Tare is another adrenaline infused orgy of manic musical happiness, even if the lyrics state otherwise. It's got that AC thing where overdrive into infinity is not just a choice but an M.O. The set closes with Panda's "Derek." It's among the most beautiful and tender songs he's written. Mid-tempo and relatively stripped down for AC, the vocal is a Beach Boys styled melody but more complex. Sounds cross the aural landscape on top of, underneath, and next to the melody until about the track's mid-point when all hell breaks loose. Joe Meek and Phil Spector might have bee able to manage a sheer wall of uber-echo this deep in the percussion and keyboards and have the vocals come right out of the middle, floating above and around the mix. So this tension and sharp, edgy contrast is felt now more than ever before on AC's records, but it's a great thing. It doesn't feel or sound personal, and it doesn't sound as if anybody is interested in closing the gap. Which is wonderful, because what literally bleeds out of the speakers is the most primal yet most sophisticated record AC have done to date. Children could sing these melodies -- and that's the point -- but it took cleverness, a collective sense of humor, and faith in one another to put Strawberry Jam into such a seamless, delicious whole.

      Drowned in Sound

      Nicholas Garcia
      Rating: 10/10

      It’s been two years since Animal Collective’s last full-length release proper. Feels’was stunning, the kind of album that possessed the ability to seduce anyone willing to surrender just a little time to it. From ‘Did You See The Words’ right through to ‘Turn Into Something’; the chemistry between those reverb-washed guitars and contagious, asymmetric melodies ensured each of the nine cuts hit on a strange, sweet angle. In a list of all-time favourite love records, Feels, in its skewed, intimate glory, sits pretty high up there. Any qualms, just ask one simple question: did Marvin ever pen a line as damn honest as ‘The Purple Bottle’’s “Sometimes I’m naked and thank god sometimes your naked”? No. He did not.

      Back in October 2005, Feels could have easily gone down as the seminal work from the Baltimore four-piece’s consistently remarkable output. However, with the release of Strawberry Jam, this debate is once more thrown to the wind. Beside its predecessor, …Jam possesses little desire to sit comfortably with its listener, instead stretching out, sprawling and cavernous. Whilst the visceral joy of Feels remains in part, it is joined in equal measure by a sense of violence and anxiety. In mining much darker emotional territory, Animal Collective have produced the record of their career; …Jam is a masterpiece of mood, composition and delivery. Even in an age of tiring critical hyperbole, it is difficult to deny that this album is the most profound (re)imagining of the pop music aesthetic of recent times.

      From the very outset, a transformation has clearly occurred. Whilst structurally …Jam largely adheres to pop conventions - most tracks being based around a simple verse/chorus progression - an immediate discord is struck by the treatment of the vocals. As Avey Tare’s voice permeates the gurgling introduction to ‘Peacebone’, it enters unprocessed, unflanked by harmony and dominant in the mix. Utilised throughout …Jam, this new aesthetic enables the listener to inhabit the album’s lyrical landscapes in all of their glittering light and ominous shadow. With this fresh perspective, the popular misconception of Avey’s lyrics solely promoting the surreal becomes futile. At the heart of ‘Peacebone’’s dreamscape of dinosaur wings and cloud-carved mountains, a lament on the pitfalls of nostalgia clearly resides. Between the frightened babies and coloured water of ‘Fireworks’, an explicit awareness of eternal transience lingers.

      The power of the bare voice reaches its apex in the epic ‘For Reverend Green’. Over six and a half grinding minutes, Avey line-by-line constructs a Brueghelian tableaux of American moral anxiety inhabited by burnt children, scores of wasted Brooklyners and a bulimic weight contest queen. Delivery is the key factor here. It’s the juxtaposition between Deakin’s cold, delay-heavy guitars, Panda’s increased-heartbeat floor toms and that voice or more specifically that scream which secures a devastating emotional impact. A howl in the dark against the neglect of insight, the dominance of the material over the spiritual, ‘Reverend’ is both …Jam’s most overtly political moment and its crowning glory.

      The slow-burning ‘#1’ provides a welcome contrast to a largely rhythm-driven set. The only track to utilise overt vocal modulation, its ethereal narration serves a very distinct purpose in embodying a departed father figure. Almost mantra-like in mood, ‘#1’’s impressionistic depiction of a fractured family unit reaches no resolve, its tumbling arpeggio simply trailing off into eventual silence. A departure for the band, it feels like an almost mistaken, but very much welcome, step into the unknown.

      ‘Cuckoo Cuckoo’ is another moment in which Animal Collective reach a new level of compositional mastery and broaden their territory. Based around a simple piano motif, the song’s incessant peaks and troughs evoke claustrophobia in an alarmingly vivid, physical sense. Once again the vocal delivery is fearless, Avey placing the surreal alongside the painfully direct to unprecedented effect.

      Panda Bear, conjuror of infectious, spontaneous melody, doesn’t disappoint with album closer ‘Derek’ and the tribal chant that is ‘Chores’. Alongside ‘Peacebone’ and ‘Winter Wonder Land’, ‘Chores’ is perhaps the finest example of the lean physicality which makes …Jam such a joy to experience. Noah’s unique ability as a composer is in channelling the day-to-day through melody to reach the sublime, and ‘Derek’ achieves this effortlessly. In just three minutes, with little more than percussion, guitar and voice, Noah transports the narrative of a childhood pet dog to another place altogether. It is the perfectly displaced closing gesture, strangely tying up all that has come before and all that is to follow.

      In its very placement, ‘Derek’ confirms that, with or without major record deal, Animal Collective have no time for self-serving grand gestures, but only the pursuit of divine pop music by strictly earthly means.

      Sputnic Music
      Rating 4/5
      Review by The Katz brothers STAFF

      Summary: Animal Collective are really good. Even John Norris knows what's up.

      There are a couple things one would expect to see when he turns on MTV at around 11:00, reruns of dating shows most likely, or perhaps, on an off night, a music video or two. But no, the scene is as follows; 11:00, an unsuspecting Tuesday night, a TV comes on; MTV News is running some kind of story “breaking” a “new” band:

      “A genre-bending four piece from Baltimore, Animal Collective have had a surprising influence on the indie scene over the past 5 years”

      John Norris begins his news report like any other. Remote hits floor, butt plants firmly in seat. Avey Tare’s ugly mug wasn’t the last thing I expected to see impregnate channel 56’s rotation schedule, but it was pretty ****ing close. Animal Collective have a new record out though, and they’ve been one of the most interesting bands around for a while now, so I guess it’s to be expected.

      It can be said however, that the average ‘Date My Mom’ fan won’t find what he’s looking for on Strawberry Jam, though I think the bigger question here may be: Will the average Animal Collective fan? Strawberry Jam is big step away from Feels (the band’s last release, considered by some to be one of the band’s best) in many departments; though it’s hard to say which direction the band appear to be going in. For one thing, Jam’s mix is considerably drier then previous Animal Collective works (though it’s still far from the lo-fi fuzz of 2000’s criminally underappreciated Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished) and the vocals are loads louder than they’ve ever been; which takes some getting used to. For another The Collective (or as John Norris seems to like to call them, The Animals) haven’t done this much shouting since their days pre-FatCat Records (Jam is the band’s debut for Domino.) Upon first listen, songs sound half-baked, lazy or even annoying (an adjective a surprising number of folks seem to favor when describing the band) and it takes a couple solid listens to finally crack the crust and begin to appreciate the album for what it is: a masterpiece.

      OK, so masterpiece is a bit excessive, but Strawberry Jam is certainly a completely “baked” album (interpret that however you want.) At this point, most know that both Panda Bear and Avey Tare have released solo (or at least solo in the sense that they were apart from their Collective-mates) records in 2007, both of which met some sort of critical acclaim (the one that plays forwards more so.) With this in mind, the fact that Jam is even enjoyable is some kind of otherworldly achievement, but this borders on frightening. Brilliance comes early and often within the first half of Strawberry Jam. After a woefully disappointing album opener, Unsolved Mysteries is definitely a relief. The song has a distinctly folksy vibe to its verse, harking back to the band’s Sung Tongs days, but its chorus, full of watery effects and feral grunting is something completely new and completely cool. Songs on Strawberry Jam flow loosely, with Panda’s spazzin’ drums going one direction and Geologist’s sounds ‘n’ stuff in another. Chores’ dynamic change from flailing pop to moody drones (captured perfectly in the beautiful chord change that takes place at around 1:45) is stunning as well, but the next track, fourth for those counting, is where Animal Collective really hit their mark.

      For Reverend Green is truly stunning. It shares certain elements with first single (and aforementioned “woefully disappointing album opener”) Peacebone, but Tare’s uncharacteristically emotional vocals set the song apart from its contemporaries instantly. Avey Tare might be the only human alive who sounds more normal singing about being in love with a horny specter (April And The Phantom) as opposed to human love, as presented here, but he does both truly wonderfully. The band (which also includes a guitarist, Deakin, as well as the other, previously mentioned folks) crafts a hell of tune for Tare to express his feelings over. Huge, tremolo guitar sounds bury Panda’s tribal drum-pounding, while another guitar, smudged lovingly into the painting, supplies the song with its gorgeous melody line.

      Fireworks is a great song too. ****, they’re all great. Animal Collective is a completely different beast on Strawberry Jam, and it’s beautiful at times, it really is. It kind of chokes me up. And oddly enough, I have all the more respect for them now that they’ve hit the big time (what, with MTV knocking on their door and all that garbage.) Though what I’ve heard about them performing live as a guitar-less hip-hop trio has me kind of skeptical, but I guess that’s an entirely different review.

      - Joe

      Avant-Garde music has always had its place. Whether it's for the music fan who likes to push their listening to the extreme, or those who have had one too many sips of the mushroom tea and absinthe chaser, its audience is still a relatively minor one compared to the McFlys of our day. But here comes Animal Collective's seventh album (sixth in the studio) and it promises to open the doors to many new fans.

      Unlike what has come before, Strawberry Jam is easy - well, easier - to handle. It may be due to the band getting a little older, wanting to appeal more to the masses, or maybe because it has a new, big, shiny record deal with Domino Records. Whatever it is, it's welcome. Not because it's more like 'normal' music, but because it really emphasises the great musicianship, melodies and imagination of the band - namely Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist and Deacon - while keeping their oddness right at the forefront.

      There's no better way to introduce an album than with complete confusion and Animal Collective does this brilliantly.Opening track and first single, Peacebone, begins with a nightmare of electric mess, transcending into a conformed thumping of bass and drums. Just the juxtaposition of the two opposites is enough to unnerve you. Its marching beat continues beneath a track full of swirls, industrial crashes and a simple and sweet melody, which breaks only for screams and childlike chorus, straight from the darkest depths of the nastiest horror flick. Its psychedelic lyrics joined with a bit of soprano vocal sets the scene of the creepy tale, which will make every kid sleep with their door wide open. It's illustrated brilliantly in the video of the first date between monster and weirdo, rotten-toothed beauty.

      The hellish fairground surrealness continues into Unsolved Mysteries, with its Willy Wonka-esq bubbles and sweetshop adolescence. It's cute, but in a very dark way, as is the theme tune to an evil set of Snow White dwarves, Chores, which changes from manic and demanding to quite serene and beautiful.

      The pulsating guitars of For Reverend Green (Al maybe') keeps Jam nodding on, its Arcade Fire-esque backing vocals the complete antithesis to Bear's screeches and screams among the lovely tune. It gets even lovelier in the superb Fireworks, one of the gems of the album, the Beach Boys influence shines through and the percussion is superb.

      More weird and wonderful beauties wrapped up in fantasy bring the album to a close - Cukoo Cukoo, with its warm, magical piano and thrashing guitar and the tropical Derek, the military percussion again bringing something new and exciting to an already experimental band.

      Strawberry Jam doesn't promise to be something for everyone, but it will certainly please those with an ear for the strange and surreal - even if you will have to sleep with your light on.
      - Gemma Hampson

      Delusions of Adequacy
      Rating 8/10

      Pop music is marred by impermanence. Sure, we'd be fooling ourselves to believe anything is eternal, but the genre, at times, seems to exist just outside of its listeners' periphery. Turn your head to try to catch a glance upon its fleeting mystique and flash! It's gone. There's an overpowering urge to stay current and to maintain hipness, to straddle the cutting edge for as long as public or critical favorability grants. It sells records, but it creates a void. That void exists in every idea which never had the opportunity to be fleshed out into something greater; there's a veritable wasteland brimming with the skeletons of ideas and tangents not yet fully explored. Because of this, pop albums lack intrinsic depth and rarely age into much more than museums, constructs in which one can view bygone trends and temporal aesthetics. With all that said, Strawberry Jam is an album staunchly at odds with ephemera, and therein lies its significance. Rather than implement a musical object just to discard it moments later, the group extends it out to its breaking point, exhausting each individual phrase to arrive at a sense of fulfilling completion.

      The album possesses a remarkable consciousness not only of itself but of the pop music which precedes it. They seem to have come to enjoy a distinct ability to zoom out on the genre to view a greater picture of which most of us only see mere pixels. For this recording, they removed themselves from the entire sphere of the genre, and know what they heard? Bum, bum, bum, bum... The slight resonance of a collective beat, a plodding rhythm so pervasive in the genre. They observed and internalized the indelible throbbing of pop, deconstructed it to its most indivisible fragments, and built Strawberry Jam around the results. Its fingerprints are all over the record – the first thing you hear once lead track and first single “Peacebone” settles into its own entrancing groove is a persistent beat which carries the song through a barrage of electronic bubbling and an off-kilter narrative dappered up by the derangement everyone's come to expect from the group. Skip to any song on the album for similar results, though the means used aren't always percussive; repetition is utilized to broaden the reach of keyboards, guitars, voices, and a bevy of electronic sounds. They labor together without conflict to lay a concrete ground for the lyrical abstractions Animal Collective wouldn't be complete without. For example, “Unsolved Mysteries” moves from mentions of “nostalgia's pond” to menacing sharks and finally to a surprise personality: Jack the Ripper! It feels impossible to explain, but it's just this type of abstruse vocalizations that offer proper balance to the unyielding nature of the music.

      The songs all sounds very spacey (in particular, “#1” channels Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air for the ethereal tones of space itself for an expansive journey) but, at the same time, they achieve a visceral forcefulness necessary in remaining interesting. Listened to while lounging and laying about, it's entrancing and time-distorting. Listened to while doing an activity like walking, and it's absolutely propulsive while still possessing a bewitching charm. You find your footsteps slavishly attempting to accommodate the beats in “Peacebone” or “For Reverend Green” as you walk along, your most common perambulation sprinkled with space dust and transformed into a fantastic voyage.

      This album is a collection of emphatic, ritualistic meditations on rhythm and repetition. Whereas Feels pilfered pages from the Book of Pop and cut them into crude yet vividly animated paper dolls, Strawberry Jam opts to Xerox cadenced phrases and present them as a cosmic flip book, proffering to the listener a thousand pulsating glances at the same image until a nebulous, hallucinatory trance develops. Due to its extreme use of repetition and electronics, it forgoes much of the curious, daydream-esque dynamic which had dominated previous Collective releases, but what has been assembled here is an astute, entrancing deconstruction of pop music. Highly and happily recommended to all.

      -Jacob Price
      On the back of Strawberry Jam, it might be useful to compare Animal Collective with Mercury Rev. Certainly, the latter band were once something of experimental proposition – fronted by the unhinged personality of David Baker and with a blurry and unfocussed sound to match. This formula frequently produced glorious records, but it was not made to last. Hence, in the late 90’s the Rev took a right-turn and cut their one bona fide classic, Deserters Songs.
      In 2007, Animal Collective (that’s Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Deakin and Geologist) hold a similar position. After six albums of wayward hit-and-miss experimentalism, previous outing, Feels revealed a more linear approach to music-making. Not linear in the accepted sense of the word; but at times there was the definite whiff of ‘chorus’ and ‘verse’, even if these soon descended into a bubbling mix of chaos.
      Strawberry Jam continues this evolution: influenced in equal measure by the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and the outer peripheries of freak folk, it mostly sounds like a hippy sect howling harmonies while trapped in a psychedelic wormhole. Songs shift continually, instruments come and go, and whooping war cries drop in and drop out.
      On the likes of “Fireworks” and “Winter Wonder Land” the results are a never-ending cosmic jam session, while “#1” takes replicates the repetitive discipline of techno on real instruments. The ability to confound and surprise is retained, not only in the same song, but, in the case of lead single “Peacebone”, often in the same moment.
      As a result, Strawberry Jam is never inaccessible, but will be recommended for anyone who likes music as a Chinese puzzle. Those wanting more lasting – though no less head-expanding - pleasures are best directed towards Panda Bear’s solo album of this year, Person Pitch. But this is one band who won’t be heading towards the road’s middle for some time yet.
      Adam Webb (2007-08-31)

      Music Emission
      User Review
      Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam marks experimental band number two’s departure from true experimentation to a more comfortable, song-oriented, structured feel (the other is Liars’ self-titled release). Although they have taken a step towards a more approachable sound, this still does not make the album sound ready for the mainstream’s ear. Sung Tongs is still their banner album, but Strawberry Jam is the Animal Collective album that’ll get people who are just starting to dip into underground music into the more experimental side. I’m not exactly sure how they manage to do it, but Animal Collective can take the most absurd noise and turn it into a pop gem. This was definitely the case on Sung Tongs, Animal Collective’s arguably most strange, yet catchy album. Strawberry Jam, on the other hand is more structured in a pop foundation (I won’t bother name-dropping the usual comparisons, they’re generally too bs anyways). It’s swirling, atmospheric textures made of cut-up noise and spliced sound manages to create brilliant beats and really exalts each song, taking it from interesting to awesome. Wait, there’s more! New and improved Animal Collective Strawberry Jam comes complete with lyrics--- that are not nonsensical! Not every song has intelligible lyrics of course, but the majority of the songs actually do. Surprisingly, for a band that specializes in making music with their mouth while letting the music speak for itself, the lyrics aren’t painful. In fact, they seem to be fine (I must admit that I still have a tendency to hear it all as sound, rather than picking out lines like I would do with most bands, but… It’s Animal Collective!). When it comes down to it, I imagine that Panda Bear’s direction with his solo material is what altered Animal Collective’s direction as a band. I’m not going to complain and they won’t either, this music would set someone up perfectly to listen to some of the more adventurous, peculiar avant-garde. Check Out: “For Reverend Green”- Animal Collective (and every other track you can get your hands on)

      Dusted Reviews

      Review date: Sep. 6, 2007

      It’s been a long while since the Animal Collective was shorn of its ramshackle mystique. Once a torch-bearer of post-millennial, outer borough curiosity, the Collective’s originally distinct brand of galloping, winsome psych-pop has become a nascent genre in and of itself. And as the years have passed, the group’s initial scattershot tendencies have coalesced rather gracefully – formerly a disproportionately overstuffed duo, the group has counted four full members for some time now, and each passing release has evidenced a noticeable growth into that frame.

      Contrary to what one might think, the ringing clarity of 2005's Feels presented not a logical endgame for the Collective, but rather a new jump-off. Picking up where the more composed moments and deliberately plotted payoffs of that album left off, Strawberry Jam presents a renewed plunge into higher fidelity and seemingly traditional song structures, thanks in part to the continued work of engineer Scott Colburn. And while it makes for some of the Collective’s best recorded moments to date, there are enough awkward missteps scattered throughout to give a careful listener pause.

      Strawberry Jam’s most striking aspect, surprisingly, is the vocals. Immediately foregrounded and generally left untouched, the words here assume the role of actual narratives instead of mere texture and tone. Sadly, this makes cutesy monologues, like the one on lead single “Peacebone,” altogether unbearable. But along with these recognizable voices comes more purposeful instrumentation, which time and again proves to be the album’s saving grace. The percussive thumps, crackling electronics, and subtle, echoing steel drums more than carry any dead weight.

      Though the album starts slow, Strawberry Jam begins to pick itself up with “For Reverend Green,” a lengthy piece built around chiming and distorted guitars and simple drum strikes, one of the most transcendent moments in all of the Collective’s back catalogue. The same goes double for “Fireworks,” all drumrolls and reverb'd guitars fighting to keep pace with each other. Here the group rides an effortless crest, a beautiful stretch of time and song that dresses up the group’s disparate strands into taut, ebullient pop. And herein lies the strength of the Collective – an almost innate ability to conjure a sense of wonder and amazement and render it in pure sound.

      There are times, though, when that same sense becomes problematic, creating an awe that feels forced. “Chores” wastes its first half on precociously fey screeds about housework alongside tumbling instrumentals, before giving over to a blissfully ambient closing passage that should have held the whole track. Similarly, “#1” and its overly effected vocals tend to cross the line into kitsch, almost too readily.

      Coming on the heels of the oft-brilliant Sung Tongs and the more refined Feels, Strawberry Jam is a mixed proposition if ever there was one. To wit: How far into childish reverie can a bunch of guys in and around the age of 30 actually go? At what cost does the increased fidelity come for a group whose calling card was a gauzy haze? And, perhaps most importantly, how can a group with members responsible for one of the year’s best (Panda Bear’s Person Pitch) and worst (Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan’s Pullhair Rubeye) albums reconcile its own obvious aesthetic differences? If anything, the Animal Collective’s latest doesn’t present any immediate answers, and seems pretty unrepentant about holding off the inquisition for at least another album or two. Take that as you will, for although there’s enough material here to suggest these four still have plenty left in the pipeline, there’s an equal amount to suggest that a collapse could be imminent.

      By Michael Crumsho

      Rating: 4.5/5

      Baltimore's finest return with what could well be the best album they are yet to make. A group that have been improving with every release, they now reach a peak on their eighth record. Try that Jack Fabian Penate. Yes, that is his middle name. Shakespearean dontcha know. Anyways, Animal Collective can hardly lay claim to normal monikers, what with members 'named' Panda Bear, Avey Tare and The Geologist. Kooky the Collective may be, but their music is stunning.

      To categorise Animal Collective is like trying to build a pyramid from soup. They sound like no-one else. Blending indie with electronica and psychedelia, without watering down any aspect of those genres, creates an otherworldly, alien type of music that is breathtaking to listen to. Opener 'Peacebone' starts the album off to at a gallop as pulsing teckno rhythms bleed into a stomping rock beat. The layers build and build to create a technicolour masterpiece that sends your head off to those giddy stratospheres. It also contains a chorus referencing "brocolli" and "mildew on rice". Culinary delights one and all.

      'Chores' and 'Fireworks' comes closest to returning to the more guitar and drum orientated tracks of previous records 'Feels' and 'Sung Tongs', with the trippy guitars creating a shimmering effect, like looking at a heat haze. '#1' takes your ears to outer space and back in four and a half minutes as plink plonky keyboards sparkle off into the sky. 'Winter Wonderland' veers towards pop glory with the vocal 'oooos' that characterise 'Strawberry Jam' at their catchiest. I dare you to find a dull moment.

      Throughout the record, synth patterns interweave like thread; the layers upon layers of psychedelic beats create a woozy feeling which will keep that summer feeling going long into the bleak grey rain of the wintertide. Their difference to other bands, combined with the beautiful melodies, create their finest record to date - not difficult for a band as wondrous and star spangled.

      James Lawrenson

      The Guardian

      Rating 4/5

      David Peschek
      Friday September 7, 2007

      These Brooklyn-based oddballs grow stranger yet on their Domino debut. Opener Peacebone rides on an itchy, accelerated glam pulse, and embodies the blizzard of ideas with which the whole record vibrates, occupying an ethnographic hinterland beyond genre. The gorgeous #1 is a kind of alien Beach Boys croon - although, like most bands said to sound like the Beach Boys, Animal Collective don't, or not in any straightforward way. There is a similar sense of an anything-goes group creativity, but also a feeling that here is a new and strange world - the sort of thing you get from late-70s Brian Eno, or even Joe Meek. Hybridising of influences often creates a bland, muddy brown nothing. Animal Collective sound like the aural equivalent of a kaleidoscope, or of wandering through a bright, clamorous fairground where all ambient noise, colour and light bleeds into a glorious, dazzling whole. They are their own genre: ecstatic eccentric.


      Anthony Carew, Reviewer
      September 6, 2007

      The eighth Animal Collective album is by far the weirdo woodlanders' best and quite possibly just 2007's best, too.

      When New Yorker noise co-op Animal Collective finally arrived on Australian shores in 2006, the quartet bore little resemblance to their preceding discography. The insular, mumbling ensemble, lost in daydreams and scattered sounds, had been replaced by a crack combo in full voice, functioning at fever pitch. Projecting their sense of shared joyousness outwards, Animal Collective invited the audience into a delirious percussive orgy, creating an astonishing musical communion. For anyone lucky enough to be at those shows, Strawberry Jam is like a dream come true; a play-at-home version of that mad, mad party that suffers not in translation. As an album, it defies categorisation and comparison: tribalist yet futurist, ridiculous and serious, radically avant-garde while riddled with pop hooks, a set of ecstatic love-of-life love songs lost in the throes of shamanist ritual. For all the praise heaped upon 2004's Sung Tongs, it seems slight in retrospect; Tongs the hesitant promise, Strawberry Jam the thrilling delivery. The eighth Animal Collective album is by far the weirdo woodlanders' best and quite possibly just 2007's best, too.
      Rating: 4/5

      Reviewer: Nathan Atnikov

      Noise-rock has always been a slippery slope – it habitually starts with a creative collision of sounds and ideas, but often finishes with a whimper instead of a bang when all is said and done. Such was the case on much of Animal Collective’s previous work, but with Strawberry Jam, the New York-based band has captured lightning in a bottle.

      Paying more mind to song structure, but without losing their sense of experimentation, Animal Collective have found the perfect balance between frenetic noise and songwriting sense.

      What’s rare for a band with two seemingly opposing forces operating at the same time, is that neither of Animal Collective’s personas is stronger than the other, best exemplified on “Chores,” a song that starts with swirling keyboards and a flighty melody before slowly pulling back into itself and ending on a repetitive bass drum beat. “For Reverend Green” is one of the more formless tracks, but is solidified by the album’s strongest melody, and “Winter Wonder Land” is a masterfully disguised pop song, under layers of flashing guitars and synths.

      Animal Collective have always made albums – in past they’ve just had a little trouble making songs. Strawberry Jam is the overwhelming answer to all of the questions the band faced up until now.

      The whining and droning circus noises pierce your eardrums.

      September 3rd, 2007

      At first you get a flashback to when cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes) would burn out and make all sorts of crazy noises in your tape deck. That’s how Animal Collective’s “Strawberry Jam” starts. Then you hear someone say, “Bump it” and it all comes together. The New York based experimental band’s newest album is like a chunk of sound waves from space, warped and distorted so humans may understand just what these guys are getting at. Tracks like “#1” comes in with a repeating synth, almost like a frequency from a spaceship hovering over your house. The dreamlike synth gives way to Avey Tare’s vocals that have been slowed down to a molasses like level of intensity that can only be compared to Tim Curry on mescaline. Your starting to get an idea of what this band is like. Next you’re staring at things for too long, lost in deep thought because you’re trapped in this amazing chorus from the track “For Reverend Greene,” which is this album’s quintessential masterpiece. The song alludes to this building point and the words “it’s alright to feel inhuman now” are spoken, which pulls the whole thing together and makes “Strawberry Jam” a truly unforgettable addition to this band’s already amazing library. The album does tread on the land of childhood rhymes and overall monotony in songs like “Derek,” which the tempo would be more at home on Sesame Street. But, that shouldn’t suggest that this isn’t an amazing album. “Strawberry Jam” is probably any synth junkie’s choice of preservative.


      Author's Rating
      Vocals 9
      Musicianship 9
      Lyrics 9.5
      Production 9
      Creativity 10
      Lasting Value 8.75
      Reviewer Tilt 9.25
      Final Verdict: 92%

      Posted on 07-12-07 by shaysexpanther

      Ever had a childhood? Honest question. Quite a few people don't. Those who do probably don't remember. The rest probably either A) Refuse to grow up, thus sending their lives into a downward spiral of never ending wants and needs without any satisfaction, or B) Live out their childhood fantasies well into their adulthood, typically through their work or by way of an immense cash flow. Thankfully, Animal Collective fall into the latter category, and it's even better that they exhibit their vivid nostalgia for their younger years through their music. Panda Bear shot the first salvo of 2007 when he dropped the critical darling, Person Pitch, a mish mash of Brian Wilson and comforting atmospheric Pop. That's album's child like qualities carry over to Animal Collective's latest offering, Strawberry Jam, giving focus to a band that always seemed lost in itself. The result is not only their most accessible album, but also their best.

      The record's intentions are laid out from start amidst the jittery thump of the opener, "Peacebone": "And an obsession with the past is like a kid flying / Just a few things are related to the old times / When we did believe in magic and we didn’t die / It's not my words that you should follow, it's your insight". This record isn't just about being a kid, it's about the imagination of a kid. We all had dreams of worlds we wished were in when we were young, whether it was playing with Power Ranger weapons, dressing up like Batman, or having an imaginary friend. When you're a kid, you always wished you weren't, and now that you've grown up, you often get that fleeting feeling that things never worked out like you hoped they would and you want to go back to the simpler times. Strawberry Jam does just that. For 44 minutes, you're brought back into that phantasmic dreamworld you created in your youth. Magic is real. People don't die. You're the hero and damsel is no longer distressed. And at once, all is right with the world.

      In a time where certain doom lurks around every corner, people in authority protect their own interests instead of the citizens they rule over, and every artist is up to their sunken eyeballs in melancholy, it's an absolute pleasure to hear albums like Strawberry Jam and Person Pitch cut through the despair with ears plugged and eyes closed. These are innocent records in a world of crime and corruption. They point the listener toward the endless sky instead of a downtrodden ditch. It's almost revolutionary idea these days, to choose joy over despondency. Strawberry Jam isn't some sort of absurd call to arms though. It's about saying "You know what, fuck this. I don't want to deal with this weight on my shoulders anymore," and promptly sticking your head in the clouds. "Winter Wonder Land" proclaims this ideal thought proudly: "But inside I'm okay / I can live without your dying / Where snowmen never melt / Instead they always shine".

      Animal Collective take their sound into a more Electronica oriented realm to achieve their lofty goals. Atmospheric swirling and reverb meld with free wheeling freak outs, and while initial listens may not reveal the difference between this and any of their preceding records, the variation is there. Rest assured, Animal Collective is among the most unique bands today and this isn't their sell out moment. They've progressed in a far more melodious direction than early skeptics (like myself) thought they would go, giving form to a once formless behemoth of sound. The Panda Bear/Person Pitch influence is much more evident here than ever before and it suits the adolescent material superbly. The harsh vocals are still present and they act like a cold bucket of water to the face. While at first they're startling (as Animal Collective typically is to the unsuspecting listener), eventually you come to enjoy such a cool relief encompassed by such warm and inviting sounds. You'll ultimately understand the departures in songwriting as necessary components in capturing your attention and soothing your tensions, and before you know it, you'll be locked up in a state of cathartic sentimentality.

      And I can't hold what's in my hand.
      Don't do any good to say this isn't what I planned.
      And little kids slide down on steel park slides.
      Little kids can't play with things that died.
      Sometimes all I want's one favorite song,
      And two to three minutes don't seem so long.
      And where's my mom, I wanna hold her tight.
      She's so far away from crowded nights.

      - "Cuckoo Cuckoo"

      That's life in the big city, ain't it. We see kids, they see us, they want to be us and we want to be them. For many, it's an unbreakable cycle. For those in possession of Strawberry Jam though, there's an escape. For just a little while there's a loop in time, a getaway from the pressure of that "real world" your parents always threatened you with when you refused to do your chores. These are nursery rhymes for people too old to hear nursery rhymes, ruminations on a life that should never be forgotten. Just a few things are related to the old times when we did believe in magic and people didn't die, and this is the primary example of such a wonderful thing. You had a childhood, right? Well, Strawberry Jam's here to answer that question for you.

      Few artists this decade have evolved in a manner as fun to witness in the way globally divided, Baltimore-bred Animal Collective has. Their early records, from Spirit They've Gone Spirit They've Vanished to Here Comes The Indian, created a bewildering sonic trip akin to a mash-up of pagan folk music and Black Dice's early noise terror, with more than a touch of psych-rock surging through its veins. Then with songwriters Avey Tare and Panda Bear carrying on the name as a duo with Sung Tongs, opted for a playful acoustic bliss, its childlike nature even making the brief "Sweet Road" a choice selection for a Crayola commercial. A year later, bandmates Geologist and Deacon (or Deaken, as it is sometimes spelled) reconvened with Avey and Panda to record Feels, the closest the band had ever come to a rock album, though still swathed in their bizarre eccentric antics and occasionally veering toward experimental ambience. Yet with each of these albums, an almost infinite level of new sounds emanated, as if the group had re-created a new genre with each album.

      Animal Collective's new album Strawberry Jam, their seventh(-ish) overall, not only continues in the band's pattern of perpetual inventiveness, but even goes to suggest that they get better as time goes on. Whereas before, Animal Collective had been curiously lumped in with the `freak-folk' of Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, this album will put an end to the notion of the band being either `freaks' or `folk.' This isn't to say that there's anything conventional or straightforward about it, because it's certainly like no existing rock record out there. Yet it's by far the band's most melodic, most accessible release, and in many ways, the most layered and complex. While the manic screams and dense ambient waves have all but vanished, in their place are sounds sublime and transcendent.

      As there has always been an element of youthful innocence and energy, it is exactly this feeling that propels the opening track and first single "Peacebone." Its melody is bouncy and soaring at once, while Avey Tare's lyrics toe the line between sweetly sentimental ("the taste of your cooking could make me bow on the ground") and surreal ("peacebone got found in the dinosaur wing"). By the song's bridge, the familiar sound of intense screaming emerges as a sonic contrast to the track's light-hearted melody. "Unsolved Mysteries" is a bit less immediate, its insistently jabbed guitar chords having an almost percussive effect beneath the atmospheric samples bubbling overhead. Panda Bear's vocal on the trippy, intense "Chores" have the ring of a misunderstood teenager, as he sings "now I've got these chores, I'm never gonna hurt no one...I want to get so stoned/ and take a walk out in the light drizzle/ at the end of the day, when there's no one watching." There's something beautiful in its isolated tone, yet contrary to popular opinion, requires absolutely no mind-altering substances to enjoy.

      At the center of the album are two of the best songs the group has ever written, being the dense, distorted "For Reverend Green" and the epic masterpiece "Fireworks." "Green" buzzes and vibrates like a My Bloody Valentine dub, slowly building and swirling harmoniously, Avey Tare sounding weird and intense as ever, but with heavenly harmonies and a heady atmosphere backing him. "Fireworks," the album's centerpiece, is the album's peak, a brilliantly descending gallop with Beach Boys-worthy harmonies and one of Tare's most soulful performances, with a stream-of-consciousness quality in its cut-and-paste phrasing. Impenetrable or not, its melody is powerful and beautifully executed.

      The bottom third of the album is the shortest, but contains a few of the most direct and catchiest songs. "Winter Wonder Land" is just plain amazing, its light and airy verses surging into a forceful chorus, in which Tare, rather Zen-like, sings "if you don't believe in happiness/ it doesn't get you down" before breaking into the best use of falsetto `oohs' I've ever heard. Ending with "Derek," Panda Bear takes over vocals again for a simpler, folkier tune that soon becomes a hypnotic psychedelic cyclone, much like many of the tracks on his standout Person Pitch from earlier this year.

      With each Animal Collective record comes a new element to this restless band. While each one will seem `different' from the outset, it's how that album is different that may take more than a few listens to fully grasp. What remains the same is the band's own sense of discovery and growth, and the pure joy of creating music without the rigid constraints in which music is often conceived. Strawberry Jam may, more or less, be a psychedelic pop album; it's just one that's been scrambled, stirred, painted over and made one-hundred times better.

      Similar Albums:
      Panda Bear - Person Pitch
      Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs
      Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

      by Matthew Fiander

      Animal Collective have always been a group of talented artists. They are aware of how sounds work and how to string them together in interesting, if sometimes off-putting, ways. But, somewhere around the recording of Sung Tongs they decided it wasn’t enough to be a group of artists, they wanted to be a band. And thus began the move away from the more-safari-than-surfin’, Wilson-spotted soundscapes, and toward more defined songs. And it would seem that their true ability to experiment took off from there. It seems much easier to experiment when you throw all the rules out the window, which seemed to be the case on the tribal Here Comes the Indian, and while the early stuff was relatively successful in its expansive noise, it seems much harder for a band like Animal Collective to succeed within a structure, to work within the tenets of pop music to make their noise in their own corner of the room.

      But songs like “Who Could Win a Rabbit?” from Sung Tongs showed them doing exactly that. And then, after Prospect Hummer, the misfired collaboration with Vashti Banyan, the group pushed their craft even further, releasing Feels, an album that managed to match the brilliant atmosphere of Tongs while making an album that was far stronger song for song. Earlier this year, Panda Bear released Person Pitch, and even with songs that capped the 12-minute mark, it was the most accessible A.C.-related release yet, full of the signature choir-vocals and noise-play the band cut its teeth on, but with a refined pop sensibility that gave the noise a stronger foundation.

      Now Animal Collective is back with Strawberry Jam, an album that they hoped would capture the frenetic energy and immediacy of their live performances. In their pursuit for yet another new sound, they’ve managed to blow all their previous records out of the water. Strawberry Jam is simultaneously true to the band’s left-field sound and their most accessible—and yes, even catchy—record to date. Lead single “Peacebone” is a perfect example of what works on Strawberry Jam. The electronics at the song’s start imply a continuation of their old sound, one that ambles and builds slowly, until the drums come in with just a distant thud, followed by vocals that are not only intelligible (a trait absent from many other A.C. releases), but also establish a brilliantly hummable melody. Sounds rise and fall as the song pushes on, but the drums are undeterred and the blips keep the holes filled in until the bridge comes on with a full-tilt, screamed freak-out which shows that, for all the pop-yness of the new material, the band is no tamer than they used to be.

      “Unsolved Mysteries”, with its staccato acoustic guitar, sounds more like the old stuff, but when Panda sings, “She stopped crying like a child,” it becomes immediately apparent that there’s more emotion than impression in Strawberry Jam. You could always pull emotion out of Animal Collective, but where before it was a more visceral reaction to sound, it is now more of a give and take between listener and artist. The same is true of the buoyant “Chores” where the band jumps right into perhaps their quickest song ever and you can feel them trying to power through some quotidian minutia and then the song hits a wall and slows way down. It’s another patented Animal Collective move, but instead of using the slow down to let the song unravel, they push on and sing over and over “when there’s no one watching” and the song becomes a great blues moment.

      Strawberry Jam could legitimately be labeled Animal Collective’s punk rock album, and not only because of its raucous noise. This is punk rock in the same way Suicide (a band that A.C. channels on the haunting “#1"), Television, and the Talking Heads were. The best punk rock, from its heyday, made you believe that, in music, anything was possible. That Animal Collective can turn their own established sound on its ear in a song like “Fireworks”, where the vocal delivery sounds like gospel laid over music straight out of ‘80s electro-pop, and somehow in between the two is the band’s brilliant use of circus percussion and other-worldly harmonies. This shows not only the band’s range but also that they’ve thrown assumptions about their art out of the window, and the listener should follow suit.

      There’s always been a “How’d they do that?” quality to Animal Collective, but now quality is built in to songs that are downright catchy. The choice of “Peacebone” as a lead single seems more arbitrary on this album than the Feels single “Grass”, because most of the songs on Strawberry Jam could be pop singles, at least as much as an Animal Collective song can be a pop single. The album succeeds more than any of its predecessors because it always entertains and surprises. If anything, Strawberry Jam is a testament to the benefit of a band taking the longview. Animal Collective are always trying new things, but with new songs ever working their way into live sets, and other albums and side projects that aren’t as successful as they are adventurous, you can see that they’re not obsessed with nailing it every time out. They’ve been making solid records for a while now, but there was always the sense that they were building towards something with each one. And if it turned out that Strawberry Jam was the album they were building toward all this time, then the band would be a brilliant success. But it seems almost impossible they’d stop now, and if they keep pushing forward the way they have, there’s more great music just on the outskirts of town, hidden under a copse of trees, waiting for us to stop what we’re doing and listen.

      — 13 September 2007

      By: Jeff Klingman
      9.0 out of 10

      For about a half decade now, critics have been claiming that each new record by Animal Collective is the band's most accessible. Though these claims ignored the little-heard 2000 debut, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished, those claims were relatively correct. The chaotically layered noise and primal wild-man yelps (once oddly dubbed "freak folk") have been gradually giving way to more approachable pop textures, warped as they still may be. Strawberry Jam is the first of the band's six studio albums to entirely omit tracks of long ambling dirge among its fractured sing-alongs. Every song features prominent and decipherable lyrics, and most flirt with a traditional verse-chorus-verse. For once, the album's purpose is not half in overwhelming the listener with euphoric and alien noise. Strawberry Jam can still be disorienting and thrilling, but we now have to take the members of Animal Collective for the words they've finally decided to let us hear. To paraphrase them slightly, I think this is the best they've ever played.

      Opener "Peacebone" immediately highlights the sonic refinement. Avey Tare's voice sits at the top of the mix with background harmonies never swallowing up precise diction; screams are used for emphasis rather than overkill. The music underneath (and throughout the album) is a choppy electronic loop, claimed in interviews to be the product of a healthy love for the organic repetitions of hip-hop producer J Dilla. At the onset, meaning remains obscured. The lyrics skip around from mythological images to domestic scenes, from nonsense wordplay to apparent bathtub-fart jokes. All of it sounds positively life-affirming, though. The following "Unsolved Mysteries" shoots its rays of understanding toward man-eating sharks and seeks to humanize Jack the Ripper. Has a band this fiercely experimental ever been so relentlessly positive? Panda Bear's complaints about a lack of free time in "Chores" are still soaked in Brian Wilson sunshine. Only now, aided by sparse production (and a copy of Panda's Person Pitch), are we able to discern individual personality in the band's careening mash.

      The album's next two songs are perhaps the band's best work to date. "For Reverend Green" is pretty far from the titular soul-man's output, so whether it's a genuine tribute or a nod to paranoid stoner's slang is up for discussion. The lyrics detail modern unease, its "thousand wasted Brooklyners all depressed," not sure what to do in the face of information overload. The music is smoother, tumbling along with sweet guitar textures that had been previously absent. The chorus returns to trademark screeching, but now as anthemic uplift. The primal screams affirm togetherness, even in the right "to feel inhuman."

      And "Fireworks" is lovelier still, its shimmering loops offsetting a romantic, even soulful vocal delivery. The words here are more isolated and lonely, but a quickly accelerating breakdown at the three-minute mark returns to communal strength. Nothing else on Strawberry Jam can match this dual high, but the quality remains consistent. From the digital-slot-machine cascades of "#1" through the Person Pitch clone "Derek," there's never been an Animal Collective album as coherent and pleasing for continual listening.

      Rare is the album that's able to expand an established band's fan base while completely satisfying the cult of early flag planters, but Strawberry Jam has that chance. In context, Animal Collective's previous albums seem somewhat incomplete. Sure they sound sporadically crazed and exciting, but to what end? Now that the band has crafted its childlike joy into complete sentences, wailing noise might never be enough again.

      Tiny Mix Tapes

      The men in Animal Collective have ingested a diverse array of records; this much is clear from the wide range of textures and songwriting techniques you can hear in the band’s back catalogue and the members’ various satellite projects. But judging from Strawberry Jam, these fellas haven’t read much pop criticism, or even watched an episode of Behind the Music. Because if they’d done either, they’d know that rock bands are supposed to develop, follow a linear trajectory. They’re supposed to sell out. They’re supposed to narrow their focus and churn out albums for specialized audiences. They’re supposed to harness their creative instincts and chart out new territory. They’re supposed to craft masterworks. They’re supposed to plateau. And after nearly a decade of playing and recording together, these four guys have done none of the above.

      Instead, Animal Collective have produced a series of tenuous, transitional albums. With each release, the band wriggles into a different pair of Levi’s — and when the record’s over, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin still haven’t broken in their new pants. In Campfire Songs, Avey and Panda soak spare, bloodshot acoustic guitar in gauzy effects, but they soon run out of ideas. During Here Comes the Indian, all four members fuse spastic post-hardcore clatter and wave-like psychedelic massages, but they bring us to a state of ecstasy only after subjecting us to lengthy bouts of throat-clearing. Feels, the group’s previous album, filters Brian Wilson through 4AD reverb, but the studio varnish leaves tones clumpy and tasteless. Strawberry Jam? It’s part Syd Barrett, part early Modest Mouse, a marriage of ’60s psych-pop and ’90s quasi-emo indie that results in some touching songs and some deplorable digressions. Like other Animal Collective albums, it’s a half-finished project that bears only a passing resemblance to its predecessors.

      And yet, for all their shifts in style, the Collective are running in place. Like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, these guys refuse to grow up. Buried within each of their albums is adolescent anxiety. By making a series of tentative steps towards a new aesthetic, the band explores these emotions from different perspectives rather than following them into different stages.

      In this album, Animal Collective’s teenage angst is perhaps more palpable than ever before. On a handful of songs, Avey Tare screams awkwardly, his vocal chords cracking like Guy Picciotto’s circa Rites of Spring. These strained yelps resound uncomfortably through “For Reverend Green” and “Fireworks,” but they effectively convey the music’s unresolved tension, its knotty stomach and sweaty palms. In the latter song, the mounting stress is especially devastating: drums tumble along slowly but insistently, melancholic “ooo”s rise but never peak, and the chorus never allows for release — a placid piano line sidles into the frame, and that’s it. Even our moment of clarity tugs at us, never reaches a satisfying conclusion. When Avey screams, he’s wrestling against the music and his own thoughts (which, in this song, are fixated on trying and failing to “get that taste off my tongue”), attempting in vain to finish somewhere other than the place at which he began.

      For the most part, the rest of Strawberry Jam is as affecting as “Fireworks.” Why? Because in most songs, the band insists not only that real struggles, not trifling matters, are being dramatized, but that our inability to fully communicate our thoughts and emotions doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. “It’s not the words that you should follow/ It’s your inside,” Avey exhorts in “Peacebone.” Language might fail us, but we needn’t toss truth out the window because of this. These songs deal in real presences, grasping for logos.

      The music tries to express what words can’t, which makes this Animal Collective’s most combustive, “live” record yet. Even samples and studio effects betray a human presence, a manipulating hand: in “Peacebone,” cartoonish splats groove like drum hits and bleating electronics stab like staccato guitar. Songs fail when a sense of removal hangs over them, as in “#1,” a limp melange of archetypal prog tricks, and “Winter Wonder Land,” which features a sterile pre-chorus whose rhythm borders on hyperbeat pop-punk.

      These troughs are particularly grating, and they demonstrate, more clearly than any of Animal Collective’s past falterings, that these men are not visionaries. Rock-prophets don’t take such low-return risks. The desire to communicate simple emotions and experiences drives Animal Collective; they are, at the end of the day, folk musicians.

      by P Funk

      No RipCord

      Rating: 10/10

      Just when you thought 2007 was going well in terms of new music, two of the decade’s defining bands drop new albums and turn the whole year on its head. I’m talking about Animal Collective and Liars. These two experimental rock behemoths have chartered unique and fascinating courses through the 00s and are surely two of the most accomplished bands operating today. Curiously, coincidentally, if the critical consensus is to be trusted, they’ve both just released their big ‘pop’ records within one month of another. We’ve already established that Liars is really, really good. Could Strawberry Jam be even better still? I think so.

      Fans of the Collective have already had one record to cherish (Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, which for my money deserved a couple more points than the six we gave it but, hey, this site’s a democracy) and one to be slightly confused by this year (Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan’s Pullhair Rubeye). Strawberry Jam comfortably surpasses both.

      The fun begins with Peacebone, the lead single, which sounds something like Feels’ Grass on Ritalin. (At this point in their career, comparing Animal Collective to anyone other than Animal Collective is a futile act.) The melody is equally buoyant, but crisper production allows it to flourish rather than, dare I say, irritate slightly. For Reverend Green is the next major highlight. Its reverberating, delay-drenched guitars lock into a gorgeous drone which provides the backdrop for Avey Tare’s most impressive vocal to date (he sings, he shouts, he screams, he murmurs nonsense...) and the trademark AC harmonies. At around the 4:40 the wheels sound like they’re about the fly off, only for the band to tighten it all up for a thrilling finale.

      After this, I’d have settled for filler. Instead the band offers up Fireworks, perhaps its strongest, most fully realised track to date. Featuring inventive percussion, another cracking Avey vocal, more enthusiastic harmonies and an inspired change of pace three minutes in, this classic centrepiece arguably makes for 2007’s most rewarding seven minutes of new music.

      Strawberry Jam’s final four tracks are less immediate, but no less impressive. The eerie Cuckoo Cuckoo is the record’s most overtly experimental moment, sounding unlike anything in the AC catalogue with its sombre piano and jarring bursts of noise. Crucially, it works, which is even more impressive. #1 displays a more subtle approach to innovation, a swirling, multilayered soundscape that’s propelled to a higher level by Panda Bear’s soaring vocals. Winter Wonder Land sounds like a traditional indie-rock band put through a blender, where as the whimsical, folky Derek offers a refreshingly different finale, raising an intriguing question: what next for Animal Collective?

      But that’s for another day. For now let’s just bask in the glory of Strawberry Jam, 2007’s strongest album so far.
      By David Coleman
      16/09/2007 Review
      by Eddie Robson

      Less than the sum of its parts

      "It’s a little like spending too long in a room that’s bright luminous yellow, or indeed eating too much strawberry jam. Individually the tracks all work well, but in sequence they can be overwhelming."

      Animal Collective’s eighth album defies description: thanks for making our job here harder, guys. Many of these tracks ride in on whirls of bleeps and squelches of unidentified origin, resulting in something that doesn’t sound like a guitar record, nor a dance record, nor a conventional pop record.

      Doubtless this was their intention, and for the first couple of tracks you can only marvel at the explosion of creativity on display and the sheer cavalcade of unexpected noise. Opener ‘Peacebone’ sounds like a musical zap-gun fight, but somewhere underneath is a waltzing rhythm that, if played on an acoustic guitar and without the monster roars over the top, might actually be a country song. ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ is a widescreen boat ride to the stars, grabbing the baton from the Flaming Lips and lapping them somewhere around Jupiter.

      However, by the time of the thumping, Devo-esque ‘Chores’ you may already be exhausted, and although ‘For Reverend Green’ is a quite lovely track, ‘Fireworks’ ratchets up the intensity to eye-watering levels. It’s a little like spending too long in a room that’s bright luminous yellow, or indeed eating too much strawberry jam. Individually the tracks all work well, but in sequence they can be overwhelming. ‘#1’ thankfully offers mellifluous respite and ‘Winter Wonder Land’ keeps it concise, and closer ‘Derek’ sends the album out in a gentle blizzard of stately drumbeats.

      We’re not sure it works as an album though. Maybe it needs more time. Come back in about six months.

      Review: Locochimpo (Sep 10th 2007)

      Listening to Animal Collective records is akin to listening to the sounds inside the brain of a child genius who’s hopped up on a cocktail of Ritalin and Prozac and suffering all the known side effects of hyperactive paranoid neurosis. In a good way.

      Weaved waves of hypnotic beats are mixed with samples and guitar loops to produce a sometimes awkward, but always interesting experimental sound. All this complimented by the brilliantly bonkers vocals of Avery Tare (supported by some beach boys-like harmonies). One moment singing melodically, then howling like a mad banshee - the innocence, intensity and soreness in the voice, while sounding like nothing else I’ve heard, fits the feel of the songs perfectly.

      Listening to Animal Collective can sometimes be a bit challenging. The album opens with some awkward beats and crackles and beeps, but don’t be put off as everything comes together to produce a right rollicking song about monsters – Peacebone. The stand out tracks on Strawberry Jam are Reverend Green and Fireworks. The former, it’s speculated, is about the things you see living in NYC and contains, I think, one of the best/funniest lines on the album: “Bulimic vegetarian wins weight contest”. The latter, I’m certain, is my current favourite song.

      New York based Animal Collective - made up of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist - all do their own stuff and all seem pretty prolific and I think this is their 8th long player together. (Panda Bear released a brilliant solo album earlier this year – Person Pitch – which is well worth a listen). Pound for pound, I’m not yet sure if Strawberry Jam is as good as their 2005 album Feels, but this is still a contender for album of the year if you ask me.

      Listening to it I have to wonder how the bejesus they come up with such abstract ideas for their tunes. However, if they’re gonna keep on serving up delicious treats such as Strawberry Jam then I hope they keep taking the tablets.

      rating: 8/10

      In a world where artists write songs about America called 'America', Animal Collective are a cause for celebration. This is the Baltimore pop experimentalists' eighth album and it's as idiosyncratic and tinged with goofiness as one might expect for a band with members called Panda Bear and Geologist. Accurately defining AC's sound would require a Texas-sized sheet of paper, but at any one point it falls somewhere between the life-affirming melodies of The Flaming Lips, the dippy trippiness of Mercury Rev and 1970s prog electronica. 'Fireworks' chuffs along at steam-train pace through a smoke of delicious reverb, cavernous echo, seagulls, zithers and rambling lyrics. Bowie and Eno influence the woozy astral interlude '#1' and by the closer, the twisted campfire singalong 'Derek', you are convinced if Brian Wilson could anoint a successor, Animal Collective are in with a shout.

      Stephen Worthy

      The Stranger
      Rating 3.5/4

      It was a roundabout transformation, but Animal Collective have finally become the dance-music band they've always hinted at. The shift is obvious from the first offbeat tone of "Peacebone"—Strawberry Jam's disorientation is textbook disco; the weirdness is all textural shock at the expense of freeform structure. Those old bong-hit interludes and organic guitar swirls are mostly gone, replaced with possessed synths. If there were guitar hidden in these tracks, you'd never know it. Ironic then that Animal Collective's strangest palette of sounds should make for their poppiest album yet.

      Strawberry Jam doesn't start with a slow build—it drops straight into mania. Opening with Avey Tare's raptor screech on "Peacebone," the band sound accelerated even when the tempo isn't. Chalk it up to the song's relentless pulse, but Tare's nervous frenzy doesn't hurt, either. Flipping between mystical weirdism and upper-register strain, Tare's vocal delivery borrows from Marc Bolan and David Byrne, making him sound like an art-school version of Shakira.

      "Fireworks" is one of the few tracks that could have been at home on Feels, if only because the sonics aren't so strange. Epic and contemplative, the song is a tribute to the Fourth of July, complete with corporal snares and a marching choir. At almost seven minutes, it's too long to be a conventional pop song, but it sounds like one anyway. It's the prettiest thing on the album, the only spot aside from "Cuckoo Cuckoo" where you can cleanly identify "real" instrumentation.

      Panda Bear closes out the album with "Derek," a '60s-era pastiche full of "Leader of the Pack" drum heft and Beach Boys romanticism. Shameless with its influences and structure, the bookend placement of "Derek" is thoughtful—the final hint for everyone still confused. For the last seven albums, Animal Collective's pop moments, like "Grass," seemed like distractions from the band's real goal. Strawberry Jam suggests a new read: Perhaps the band's experimentation has been grasping for pop from the start.

      Rating: 4/5
      Reviewer: Nathan Atnikov

      Noise-rock has always been a slippery slope – it habitually starts with a creative collision of sounds and ideas, but often finishes with a whimper instead of a bang when all is said and done. Such was the case on much of Animal Collective’s previous work, but with Strawberry Jam, the New York-based band has captured lightning in a bottle.

      Paying more mind to song structure, but without losing their sense of experimentation, Animal Collective have found the perfect balance between frenetic noise and songwriting sense.

      What’s rare for a band with two seemingly opposing forces operating at the same time, is that neither of Animal Collective’s personas is stronger than the other, best exemplified on “Chores,” a song that starts with swirling keyboards and a flighty melody before slowly pulling back into itself and ending on a repetitive bass drum beat. “For Reverend Green” is one of the more formless tracks, but is solidified by the album’s strongest melody, and “Winter Wonder Land” is a masterfully disguised pop song, under layers of flashing guitars and synths.

      Animal Collective have always made albums – in past they’ve just had a little trouble making songs. Strawberry Jam is the overwhelming answer to all of the questions the band faced up until now.
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