2012 will mark 13 years of Animal Collective and the Baltimore natives have certainly covered a lot of territory in that time. They began way out on a limb creating some of the most original material to surface in recent memory and albums like their 2000 debut Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished and 2004’s Sung Tongs were championed by critics and fans alike for the unparalleled creativity that the quartet displayed. Since 2005’s Feels, and especially on 2007’s Strawberry Jam and 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion the band moved towards a more accessible brand of psych pop that brought them an increase in listenership and a spot atop the world of independent music. If you’ve found their recent material a little too populist, then you’ll certainly be happy that Centipede Hz finds them comfortably back in their experimental zone.
For their tenth album, Animal Collective have turned over the majority of the singing duties to Dave Portner (Avey Tare), while Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) takes on two tracks, and Josh Dibb (Deakin) one. It’s likely that Portner’s spazzed out, shouting vocal style will turn some folks off because there is something really abrasive about the way he attacks the mic, but it does fit in well with the warped psychedelics that play out behind him.
Animal Collective have always had a knack for pushing the envelope on just what the listener will accept as pop music and Centipede Hz is no exception. Even though tracks like ‘Today’s Supernatural’ and ‘Applesauce’ are beyond weird there is still something universal and easily likeable about them, especially on ‘Applesauce’ where industrial noise and Portner’s vocals superimpose nicely over a catchy as all hell synth line. The Deakin-led ‘Wide Eyed’ also has a broad appeal and nods to psychedelic predecessors like Pink Floyd.
It’s hard to say whether Centipede Hz will be as loved as Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it does fit perfectly in line with this band’s beyond weird M.O. If nothing else it is just another instance where Animal Collective are several years and a few galaxies ahead of everyone else.