Until recently, New York's Animal Collective was a group (consisting of two core members: Avey Tare and Panda Bear) that made weird music for weird people. However, thanks to the widely accepted, pop-inflected weirdness of 2004's Sung Tongs--fueled by the acoustic hoedown "Who Could Win a Rabbit"--the group has since reached a broader audience. Now, with Feels, its seventh album since 2000 (!), the group has made their most--liberally stretching the term--"accessible" work to date.
Often jovial and heartbreaking, electric and earthy, pulsating and tranquil all at once, Feels is a monumental collection of bizarrely bucolic songs. "Did You See the Words" kicks off the strange parade with hazy electronics, children's laughter and quick drumming. Throughout Feels, the group seems gung-ho on conveying equal amounts of childlike playfulness (Tare hits every possible octave throughout the album) and otherworld creepiness (many songs swirl or melt into soupy sound collages).
The lead single, "Grass," is one of the year's most curiously (and delightfully) twisted pop songs. Bear's rollicking drums carry Tare's dreamy vocals into the chorus, where Bear shifts to cymbal crashes and Tare to violent shrieks. Elsewhere, the folky hymn "Turn Into Something" and the slow-burning howl of "Banshee Beat" greatly impress. However, the gentle rumblings of songs like "Loch Raven" don't contribute to either the ethereal beauty or majestic grandeur of the rest of the album. Ultimately, Feels is a nice kick in the pants to an indie scene that risks staleness via reinventing your idols. It's weird music for (most) everyone.