So the Animal Collective show I’m attending is merely a week away, and as you may or may not know from reading my last post, I’ve decided to dedicate my past couple of articles to them, seeing as they’re one of the most innovative groups playing music right now, and are probably the reason that I even care about music at all right now. Big statements, I know, but if you haven’t sat down and actually listened intently to one of their works, then you’re missing out. This album is huge, too, for something with only ten tracks, it still manages to cover an entire hour, with seven songs going over five minutes, with the other ones acting as noisy interludes.
Today I’m going to talk about one of their most important albums, Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, henceforth known as Spirit, was the prototype to Animal Collective, and only included Avey Tare, who played most of the instruments on the record, and Panda Bear, who provided “perfect percussion.” Spirit proves difficult to get into, though, and was filled with crashing, off kilter drumming at times, and noisy synths that bled over poorly recorded and hard-to-understand lyrics. Experimentation was the name of the game, and right off the bat, the first track is literally just noises apparently intended to hurt one’s ears, or possibly scare animals away. That’s Animal Collective, though, most of the time it doesn’t make sense, it’s all just ideas and feelings and wonderfully thought out challenges to convention.
Once we’ve worked through the first track, we get out first glimpse of the melodic catchiness of more recent AnCo offerings, but also probably one of my favourite things about Animal Collective emerges in this song for the first time. The wild swing of emotions that Tare is able to convey in his songs is something that I talked about in my post about Feels, but “April and the Phantom” is arguably the genesis of this, in recorded form at least. Phantom also is the first place to get a feel for Tare’s writing, for the future, and for the rest of Spirit, where Avey writes very childish lyrics. It’s his ability to extract such emotional response from lyrics about childhood feelings I find most compelling, it’s something everyone can relate to. “Penny Dreadfuls,” a song about riding the bus to school, as well as the entire album, which has a whole theme of childhood the transition into adulthood, encapsulates this perfectly.
“Chocolate Girl” is an 8 1/2 minute giant that I honestly don’t understand, but entirely enjoy, it’s a very melodic and catchy song. After a short interlude with “Everyone Whistling”, though, we come to one of my picks for the album, “La Rapet.” I absolutely love this track, not only is it one of my favorite AnCo songs, it’s probably one of my favorite songs ever. Spirit ends with “Alvin Row”, an almost 13 minute song that tells the entire story of a child from birth to maturity and loss of innocence. Sounds weird on paper, but listen to it, and you’ll never go back. In fact, one could say that about the entire album, it sounds weird at first, but once you get into it, it’s simply amazing, deep and memorable, and surprisingly emotionally evocative.