Feb 5 2022

Album Review: Animal Collective – Time Skiffs

I was worried we had almost given up on Animal Collective.

After their magnum opus Merriwhether Post Pavilion, which brilliantly melded avant pop (and Panda Bear’s Brian Wilson dalliances) with the experimental side of the band’s previous work, they created a slight misstep: the sharp left turn into inaccessibility, Centipede Hz. After the underrated, but still somewhat underwhelming Painting With, Panda Bear retreated, leaving the remaining members on their own to produce a self-indulgent visual album about coral reefs (Tangerine Reef). They followed this with the inessential film score Crestone. Overall the 2010s were a prolonged journey into the weirder side of their sound. But while that side produced interesting albums earlier in their career, unfortunately in the following decade it had begun to sound like AnCo had lost their way.

I’m happy to report that Time Skiffs reunites the full group for one of the strongest albums of their career, and by far their best since 2009. Animal Collective sound completely rejuvenated and have a more mature, firmer grasp on their strengths individually and as a whole.

Opener “Dragon Slayer” locks the Collective back in step, featuring oddball rhythms, chimes, and sun-soaked harmonies. Those harmonies are even louder and more prominent on “Car Keys,” while lead single “Prester John” is a spaced-out trip in line with the band’s best work. The oddest song on the album, “Strung With Everything,” is a more subdued, toe-tapping approach to the experimental freak-folk tendencies we heard the group perfect in the mid-00s with albums like Feels and Strawberry Jam.

The band’s homage (though not really a musical one) to Scott Walker, aptly titled “Walker” is the album’s most pop-leaning moment, not unlike the band’s most known song, the blissful “My Girls” from Merriwhether Post Pavilion. This is the one that’s gonna make you dance; skittering percussion and a loping bassline accompany energetic xylophone hits and the group’s trademark layers of sunny vocals.

Things get almost outright jazzy on “Cherokee” before transforming into a wave of soaring synths and layered, echo-coated singing. The song is over seven minutes long, but contains none of the noodling that plagued much of Animal Collective’s previous work over the past several years. Things get more melodic and hypnotic on the slow-tempo tune “Passer-by,” while “We Go Back” is a swaying track destined to be a favorite at the band’s live shows.

Time Skiffs is everything longtime, patient AnCo fans were waiting for. The album is never boring, every song is distinct, the forays into ambiance don’t overstay their welcome. Animal Collective do here what they’ve always done best; they strike the right balance between atmosphere and melody, between the challenging and the beautiful. The group has taken a songs-first approach to Time Skiffs, and the result is nothing short of impressive. Who knew Animal Collective still had it in them?

Score: 8/10

May 30 2011

In Memoriam: The WOXY Modern Rock 500

Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time – the unofficial start of summer, with BBQ, fun in the sun, and general good vibes for all on a three-day break. But it always used to have a pretty stellar soundtrack – the WOXY Modern Rock 500. If WOXY were still around, you bet I would be listening and listing everything I heard. The WOXY crew compiled a list of some of the finest songs to ever grace alternative radio, new and old, and the #1 song was different every year. After 97X left the FM dial and WOXY went Internet-only, the countdown continued until last year, when the station was suddenly taken from us. But we still have the music and the memories, and so, as a tribute this Memorial Day, I leave you with a sampling of tracks we might have heard today on WOXY.COM.

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Aug 9 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 190-181

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

190. Pete Yorn – For Nancy

There’s no getting around it: musicforthemorningafter is a masterpiece and by far Yorn’s finest hour.  And “For Nancy,” the breakthrough single for the Jersey-born musician, is the finest song off that disc.  A tale of love lost that’s parts optimistic, parts well-wishing, and parts purely bitter, every confusing emotion associated with a breakup is laid out plain here.  That’s always been a specialty of Yorn’s – no confusion, no abstraction, just a straightforward, “it is what it is” approach, musically and lyrically.  Here, when wishing the best/worst for an ex, it reminds me of another great American songwriter.  Don’t think twice, it’s alright, indeed.

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Jul 26 2010

My Top 100 Songs of 2009: The Top Ten

Today I conclude my series of posts showcasing my picks for the best tracks of 2009.  And it only took half a year!

10. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

It sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before, so cheerful, so upbeat, so….piano pop.  But it works just the same.  It still feels like Grizzly Bear – the lush production, the layered harmonics.  And the lightbulb-head music video is a fun watch as well.

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Apr 9 2010

My Top 100 Songs of 2009 – 80-71

Today I continue my ten-part series showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of last year.

80. Nickel Eye – Brandy of the Damned

Seems like all last year, the Strokes were running around doing all kinds of different things unrelated to their core band.  Julian and Albert pursued solo projects, while Fabrizio started Little Joy.  The only one that sat around and counted money was Nick Valensi.  Bassist Nikolai Fraiture started the Nickel Eye project, churning out a debut album in January of 2009.  While I was mostly underwhelmed with the majority of the disc, “Brandy of the Damned” is the ultra-repetitive, ultra-catchy standout.

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