3. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Sitting in a car on the way to somewhere yesterday, the radio was turned to Raidio na Life. In Irish, some young man was talking along the following lines: “…agus tháinig an EP seo amach ag an t-am céanna le Feels, ar Fat Cat. An t-ainm atá ar an ceirnín ná People – seo hí!”. And with that, he span a six-minute, non-album Animal Collective track with almost no words. Given that the Irish language and six-minute non-album Animal Collective tracks are possibly my two favourite things, I now have undying respect for that man, whoever he was. There aren’t many days when I don’t listen to something by Animal Collective. Could be People on Raidio na Life at 10.30pm. Could be Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished at 4am. Could be waking up to Did You See The Words? in my CD alarm clock at whatever time I have to wake up. But most of the time, it’s my Strawberry Jam double vinyl, in the kitchen at any time of day.
Peacebone opens the album with melting pulses and proceeds to jaunt and bounce around madly. As much as it is the poppiest and arguably catchiest thing Animal Collective have ever recorded, it is the lyrics that get me. I don’t know if quoting them will do them any justice, but nobody can talk about every day things and make them seem like the most unusual events and places like Avey Tare can. It’s definitely a lysergic jam, and if it was not for secondary reading in interviews and Take Pills by Panda Bear, I’d be assuming there were drugs going on. There aren’t apparently.
Everything is immediate, straightforward and direct. It’s not like an Animal Collective album at all really. It’s like 10 Grasses. But that doesn’t mean that the subtlety isn’t here. It’s just higher up in the mix, if that makes any sense. Like the breakdown of Chores, “when there’s no-one watching” – that’s a vibe that they’ve been tapping for a decade, but it’s never been so unashamed until now.
For Reverend Green into Fireworks is unparalleled in brilliance by anyone, ever. That seems like a pointless and lazy statement, but upon mature reflection I actually do think I can validly make that broad, sweeping statement and stand by it. Like I said before, it’s hard for me to find decent adjectives to describe these songs that are at surrogate God levels for me. So, to avoid declining into utter fawning fanboydom, I won’t. I’ll just say they’re great. Unsolved Mysteries is too, and the idea of finding the sensuous, alluring woman you lean in to kiss is actually Jack the Ripper makes me laugh occasionally still. Derek is a Panda Bear track that sounds like a really good Panda Bear track. Winter Wonder Land possibly beats even Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland by Grandaddy as the greatest Christmas song ever written.
It’s a beautiful album about ordinary things, imbued with a very keen sense of fun and games, but also washed in occasional sublime sadness. It’s not particularly short, but it feels like it could handle about four extra tracks. Maybe that’s a good thing. “It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied”, as Lord Henry would have it. And the best thing about it? It actually does sound like Strawberry Jam.
Collected Animals is where the Ultras hang out, but really you should try to make your own.