released Dec 15th
from the album - Graze
YouTube - Animal Collective - Graze (Fall Be Kind)
review from Pitchfork
The first song on Fall Be Kind, Animal Collective's new five-song EP, is called "Graze", and it starts with a colorful swirl of Disneyfied strings as Dave Portner (aka Avey Tare) sings teasing lines like "Let me begin" and "Let light in" and "Some ideas are brewing." The song seems to be partly about the struggle of creation-- grazing on the imagination, maybe-- and then Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) comes in with his thick, honeyed voice to sing a bridge that seems a distant cousin of the Beach Boys' "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)". There's tension in this opening section; the words and music suggest a sticking point, something that needs to be punctured before the song (and ideas) can really flow. And then it happens, the break, but in an unexpected way: a peppy flute melody materializes and the rhythm becomes a kind of stomp that seems designed to inspire folk dancing, while Portner and Lennox pick up the tempo and start singing rounds: "Why do you have to go?/ Why do you have to go?"
The first time through, hearing "Graze" explode into this weird sing-along RenFaire jig is a bit of a shock. It sounds very far from what we imagine a hip, frequently name-checked indie band with abrasive experimental roots to sound like. And their performance of it is certainly not tongue-in-cheek: They sound joyful, and they're not smirking. (I'm not sure they're capable of that particular expression, to be honest.) And thus it becomes clear that Animal Collective, despite having become a certain kind of alt touchstone in 2009, doesn't much care about conventional notions of cool. If they want to get dorky and put in a section that asks you to bust out the medieval garb and hop around on one leg for a minute, they'll do it. And maybe they'll put this song in the lead spot on an EP that follows up the biggest and most successful record of their career. All this went through my mind before finding out, after reading Fall Be Kind's credits, that the flute sample comes courtesy of an artist whose name became a punchline after an endless run of goofy TV spots advertising his music: Zamfir, the Master of the Pan Flute. Cool? These guys aren't sweating it.
Like their last three EPs of new material, Fall Be Kind exists in the orbit of the full-length that preceded it but it isn't defined by it. It's got songs written before and during the creation of Merriweather Post Pavilion, but they're songs that didn't fit that record for one reason or another. Given its fragmented genesis, it's surprising how listenable and of-a-piece Fall Be Kind is. "Graze" flows directly into "What Would I Want? Sky", a song that samples Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain" and is easily among the most warm, likeable, and melodic tracks Animal Collective have recorded. It refracts Aquarian optimism through a modern sense of uncertainty, undercutting the loop's jovial lilt with a tricky structure and lyrics that seem confused about what will happen next. "Sky" contains the first officially licensed sample of the Dead, and it's the best marketing move the band's organization has made since they greenlighted Cherry Garcia. It's not easy to take a cut-up voice and make it the centerpiece of a tune, and it's harder still to sing along with it in a way that doesn't sound forced. But "What Would I Want? Sky" sounds as natural as something that grew out of the earth.
The final three songs are more abstract and dreamy. "Bleed" feels like an interlude, something the band might have put on an album five years ago. It's a shifting drone, with Portner and Lennox's treated voices singing one simple refrain. It doesn't develop or do much, but it's not supposed to. Instead, it serves as a bridge to the EP's darker second half, which kicks off with "On a Highway". Something like the A.C. version of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page", "On a Highway" is a lonesome tour lament. Over a throbbing, dubby background, which is punctuated by thwacks of hand drums that slowly rise in the mix, Portner offers a series of scenes glimpsed out the window of a van, and he gets unusually personal, even referencing his bandmate directly ("Sick of too much reading/ Jealous of Noah's dreaming/ Can't help my brain from thinking"). Lennox's closing "I Think I Can" is the one song here that takes a few listens to sink in. It's longer (a touch over seven minutes), with busier production (sequenced piano notes, synth pulses, percussion, and voices flying back and forth between the speakers) and a more circular melody, but the final two minutes provide a terrific payoff to the opening clatter, with Lennox repeating the title's affirmation in a quick descending pattern as the song finally opens up.
At 27 minutes, Fall Be Kind is short enough to invite another play once "I Think I Can" fades out, which means a return to that striking second half of "Graze". When a band tries something that shouldn't work and brings it off, it's a sign of confidence. Animal Collective's focus and general disinterest in looking over their shoulders obviously makes what they're doing that much more appealing. But the most interesting thing about them at this point may be that, despite all the great music they've been making the past few years, it's not hard to imagine them failing. They've honed their craft and become very good at what they do, but there still seems to be a desire to go to unfamiliar realms, and it's possible that wherever they head next will turn out to be place they don't inhabit as easily. There's still a sense of gamble with Animal Collective, nothing is fixed-- and that's exactly what makes them an especially exciting band.
2) What Would I Want? Sky
4) On A Highway
5) I Think I Can