Animal Collective – 2005
GENRE: Experimental Rock
HIGHLIGHTS: “Did You See the Words”, “Grass”, “The Purple Bottle”, “Banshee Beat”
I initially found it hard to like Feels. That was back when I first started listening to Animal Collective and I was, quite frankly, a little mind-boggled as to the music these guys were making.
Feels is the album where Avey Tare starts to let loose vocally and I poo-pooed some of his decisions at first. Of course, you have the annoying tribal melodies of “The Purple Bottle” and its high-pitched, jubilant “WOOO!” grand finale. And then there’s the random screams on the otherwise beautiful “Grass.” And, without a doubt, the most off-putting touch is at the end of “Bees”: “the bees, the bees, rerr-rerr raa-ruu (bee sounds?)” repeated a couple times as the song ends.
But as I’ve said elsewhere, once I listened and obsessed over Meriweather Post Pavilion, all of Animal Collective’s idiosyncratic quirks became downright charming and endeared the band to me. Now I see it differently.
I drive down the highway, screaming along joyously to “The Purple Bottle”, unafraid if a passing trucker or state trooper gives me a questioning look as I shout “WOOO!” out the window, like a twelve-year-old discovering internet porn for the first time.
I listen to the gorgeous winding melodies of “Grass” and don’t see Avey’s mid-song screams as distractions, but rather perfect counterpoint to Panda Bear’s melodic phrasing going on in the background.
I listen to “Bees” and hear Avey Tare’s shameless imitation of the bumbling yellow insects for what it probably is: a joke. A pure, innocent joke, I’m pretty sure. Pretty funny too.
Animal Collective decides to add the electric guitar to their ambient arsenal and it works wonders for the band. In fact, Feels probably has the most electric guitar on any Animal Collective album. But don’t let this fool you—this is their most relaxing tape.
The back half of the album is especially drowsy, in a good way. “Daffy Duck” and “Loch Raven” are dense in their glorious ambience, the latter of which has a reverb-filled drum beat courtesy of Panda Bear that predates many a 2010s indie pop song. But the obvious highlight of the album is the 8 ½ minute “Banshee Beat”.
“Banshee Beat” is a behemoth of a song, one of Animal Collective’s best—a slow-burn that never truly reaches a climax but remains entrancing all the way. The lyrics…ah yes, the lyrics. Whatever they might mean—whether love triangles (“And I’ll bet he needs a shower cause he’s just like me”) or references to “The Swimmer” (“Hop a fence/Leave the street/Wet your feet to find the swimming pool”)—they are truly able to paint a picture. Not only that, but the accompanying vocal melody to those lyrics is another thing of beauty. The best Avey Tare vocals (“For Reverend Green”, “Fireworks”) tend to feel less like verses/choruses and more like solo vamps, a la Coltrane. The animal croons fit in nicely too.
Feels is a great album, but one that you have to be in the right mood for if you want to listen all the way through. After the explosive relax-ism (a philosophy these dudes fully subscribe to) of the first half of the album, the back half sometimes slows to a crawl, or maybe a waddle. Which is all well and good, you just have to be in the right mood for it sometimes.
The closing “Turn into Something” gets things bucking again with some lively drums, looped vocal & guitar patterns, and another typically great ‘Avey Tare unleashed’ vocal performance. It is almost “rock”, in a way. But then the whole thing explodes and the song and album ends in a drone of ambience, glorious ambience, yes—a fitting conclusion to a record made for sunny-day snoozing.
A lot of drug references on this album, subtly. The lyrics are hard to understand sometimes, but there are plenty of neo-hippie odes snuck in for good measure, some disturbing too. Harmless among them is “Grass”: “I’ve been into the plants and simple treasures.” But then there are also comparisons between love and snorting crushed pills on “The Purple Bottle” and more of the same on the hard-to-decipher “Loch Raven,” except instead of pills it seems to be heroin.