Animal Collective

Fall be Kind EP

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Label: Domino

Animal Collective could be forgiven for taking a break and basking in the near universal acclaim that greeted this year’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Not only did it live up to its considerable hype and break them to a new audience, but it is turning up on both best of 2009 lists and best of the ’00s lists. Perhaps because the band avoids the spotlight and all of its members seem refreshingly ego-free, there hasn’t been much of the backlash that often accompanies such buzzed about albums.

But here they are, less than a year later, with a new 5-song EP, Fall be Kind, which contains the first licensed Grateful Dead sample. Funnily enough, it’s the second most interesting sample on the album. The EP is a continuation of MPP’s mix of more out there experimental sounds and blissful pop tendencies. “Graze” opens with warm, pastoral keyboards and the line “Feels good because it’s early.” Appropriately, the song initially has a relaxed, waking-up vibe before the now familiar tribal drums kick in and the song expertly bursts into exuberant color. It then breaks into a goofy flute part that sounds like a fairy dance in an enchanted grove. It turns out to be a sample of none other than Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute; only they could make this work. Clearly, they didn’t get where they are by caring about what influences are cool or not.

“What Would I Want? Sky” has hazy vocals, textured sound and trance-like rhythms that wouldn’t sound out of place on MPP. It has a pleasant, kaleidoscopic meandering quality and it also contains a sample of the Dead’s “Unbroken Chain,” but if you didn’t know this, I’m not sure you’d pick it up. It’s rather unobtrusive and less striking than the Zamfir sample. Much of hippie culture is anathema to indie, but Animal Collective has never been shy about embracing certain aspects of it, from jammy tendencies to idealizing nature to music that is often characterized as trippy or swirling. What has made them such a fascinating band to follow is that they always seem on their own path, free from the constraints of trends or the marketplace.

The last three songs are less structured and more ambient and drifting. “Bleed,” with its hypno-vocals, is a kind of witchy mood piece, a nighttime song to balance out “Graze.” “On a Highway” is perhaps the least compelling on the album, but does continue the mood. However, it also has the groan-inducing lyric “There are some workers pissing/ It starts my bladder itching.” The EP closes with “I Think I Can,” which has bird noises, crisp percussion and the repeated line “I think I can,” which is apt, as Animal Collective is the little band that could. Fall be Kind is a fitting close to a great year for them, although it doesn’t forecast where there might be headed on future albums; no doubt they will continue their impressive trajectory as an innovative, ever-evolving band.

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