Pitchfork and I are are in rare agreement: The new Animal Collective record is the best album to come out in the first 3 months of 2009.
Here's why they like it:
1. It maintains the kind of folk-period Beach Boys glow that so many of their favorite records exhibit. (Think Fleet Foxes, Of Montreal, earlier Animal Collective, etc.)
2. Despite all the musical "adventures" the album sets off in, these guys still aren't trained, chops-style performers, which is a Pitchfork essential. If you can really play, Pitchfork marks you down. (BTW, I'm not claiming that many of my favorite bands or even I personally can really play; I'm just pointing out that Pitchfork tends to favor those with more rough-hewn performance skills.)
3. They named Panda Bear's solo album as the single best record of 2007, so a gushing review was necessary here to save face.
Now here's why I like it:
1. It's experimental without being self-indulgent. Animal Collective has always had at least 5 or 6 really great songs on their albums, and then they slap their fans in the face with absolutely dead-awful masturbatory noise pieces, such as "The Bees" on Feels. What a "fuck you" to the people who pay your salary. Anyway, on this album, they don't pull any of that. Every song is worthy of their lofty reputation. I really appreciate their doing that this time.
2. Their lack of traditional "chops" has no bearing on the fact that these 3 guys really are very musical. They might not know the names of the chords they are playing-- or even that they are changing keys when they do-- but they know how to play and they let their relative ignorance guide them into new, exciting directions. It's like when John Lennon read an academic article analyzing a Beatles chord progression. He had no understanding of the author's terminology or the academic theory behind what he wrote, but that didn't change the fact that he had written the song. The knowledge was innate.
3. Their album cover is delightfully trippy. Just stare at a big, blown up version for a couple of seconds and enjoy...
Pitchfork got it totally right. Best of the year so far.