Music Reviews
Fall Be Kind EP

Animal Collective Fall Be Kind EP

(Domino) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche, as a more-indie-than-thou Christmas present for his mailing list, recently released his acoustic cover of the song Bluish from a little-blogged-about 2009 album by an obscure New York City group called Animal Collective. The naked treatment evinces that Animal Collective’s appeal lies deeper than its textures and sonic decorations; the group not only creates beautiful melodies but also writes endearing lyrics. This is not to say that a song is not worthy unless it passes the Lerche treatment (plenty of amazing music would sound stupid if rearranged by Bon Iver, like the Jesus Lizard, for example), but such a test works well for certain genres, especially anything that one could interpret as melody-driven pop.

A couple of the five tracks from Fall Be Kind, AC’s epilogue to Merriweather Post Pavilion, compete with the best work from the aforementioned hype magnet in terms of aesthetic depth, tunefulness, and accessibility. Similarities abound, as is expected with less than a year separating the releases. MPP sometimes sounds as if it was recorded in a giant washing machine, and Fall Be Kind often creates a similar impression. Some of MPP’s selections could even, with some stretching of the imagination, pass as danceable music. None of the new cuts match songs such as My Girls and Summertime Clothes in terms of riotous fun, but the EP stills stands as a worthy addition to the band’s catalog.

Graze swirls around in its own hypnotic trance, enveloping the twisting vocals of Avey Tare (David Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) in a blend of synths, piano, and reverberating winds and strings, until the fog breaks to make way for a pair of harmonizing flutes that frolics throughout the rest of the song like something from the teacup ride at Disneyland, a move that tells listeners they’ve gone down the rabbit hole (or they’re not in Kansas anymore, or something). On What Would I Want? Sky, they expose some of their penchant for controlled sprawl that characterizes their live shows and betrays their oft-mentioned adoration of the Grateful Dead. Again, the intro is an immense billow of mostly instrumental, beat-less haze. What emerges, though, is the seven-beat waltz of Beach Boys-esque vocal trapeze work (anchored with a sample from the Grateful Dead’s Unbroken Chain) that has rightly made it the most talked-about track from this release.

Not every song on this album could work at an unplugged open mic night (particularly the nebulous Bleed and On a Highway). While that undercuts the notion of Animal Collective as a bunch of folk musicians with quirky electronics, it also argues in favor of AC’s other contribution: their commitment to experimentation with everything from instrumentation to song craft. Fall Be Kind shows the band on the path to becoming an even mellower band and nothing here is exceptionally energetic except for the last half of Graze. The group still has plenty of punch, except now there’s a pillow between them and the listener. This could put off fans of the more abrasive sections of Strawberry Jam and Sung Tongs, but who – especially among AC’s fan-base – really expects these guys to stick with playing one style for more than a couple years?