Thursday, December 30, 2010

Avey Tare album should tide over fans of AnCo, but not much more.

Genre: Psychedelic/Experimental
Paw Tracks
Running Time: 34:44

2009 was easily the year of Animal Collective. That was the year the avant-garde indie/electronic rockers, to that point fairly obscure, dropped their glittering opus of totally tripped out electronic pop influenced album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the rest was history.

The band has spent this year on the sideline, but that hasn't stopped frontman Avey Tare from diving in headfirst with his debut solo album, Down There. Being as Tare is one of the biggest influences on his band's sound, you can expect Down There to offer heavy helpings of the trippiness that makes Animal Collective so unique. The sound you'll hear here is much closer to the signature Animal Collective sound than, say, a Panda Bear album.

The opener, "Laughing Hieroglyphic," features a demented accordion playing over gurgling electronic beats, while Tare's loopy vocal engages you and won't let go. At the same time, there definitely are some departures from Animal Collective. For starters, Avey's disc tends to be much more minimalist in nature than some of AnCo's works.

For those who tried to get into Animal Collective but were turned off by just how over the top it was, you might want to give this one a shot. The relatively subdued nature of the songs means that it's nowhere near as grating as some of Animal Collective's more over the top compositions.

But they also aren't as fascinating, either. Remember how the shimmering wall of synthesizers took your breath away the first time you heard "My Girls?" Or how about the brooding, all over the place vocal melody from "Summertime Clothes?"

Nothing on Down There can come close to the majestic results we get when the foursome of Animal Collective get togehter, but there is a lot here to like. One of the elements that make this album unique is its water theme. Worked into the mix are plenty of dripping, splashing, and tinkling sounds. It's like you're sitting in an underground basement while water leaks out of the pipes, listening to Avey spin his tale.

As far as the vocals go, no one's ever going to accuse Tare of being the greatest singer. But he covers that up a bit by submerging his voice into a myriad of different effects. I swear he's got a new distortion for every song. It gets to be so much that after a while you could start listening to the title track off Radiohead's Kid A album and think it sounds perfectly normal.

Instruments? Well, there's not a whole lot I could make out on this album. It's mainly driven whatever electronic effect Avey's got programmed into the background, thought I wouldn't be surprised if there was a guitar here and there.

Vocal samples also prove to be a considerable part of Tare's repitorie. "Glass Bottom Boat" begins with a guy looking for directions to a cemetery, and a stranger offers to give him a boat ride there. "Oliver Twist" features some guy talking about someone who looked into a rock and saw a skull or something. It's strange, but it fits the mood.

Some of lyrical themes are also pretty out there. "Ghost of Books" is, I'm pretty sure, a song about a guy who wants to make love to a ghost. But there are also some more evolved lyrical themes. "Heather in the Hospital" talks about feelings of depression when a loved one has to go into the hospital, while "Cemeteries" deals with feelings of anger and fear.

Perhps the biggest strength of Down There is its uniqueness. No one can make an album quite like Avey Tare, and you certainly won't hear anything else like this album this year. It comes off as more of an Animal Collective-lite, but if you're a fan you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you've been intrigued by the Collective, but find their sound to be too oppressive, you might find Down There to be a little more palatable.

Score: 70/100

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