Animal Collective’s latest album “Centipede Hz”, while full of interesting musical concepts and fragments of sound, is not without its critics (for good reason). It’s too “busy” of an album, lacking the distinctiveness, dynamics and sense of direction of previous classics.
When the album’s approach works however, as on lead single “Today’s Supernatural” and the closing track “Amanita”, Animal Collective are able to create unique soundscapes that rival the best in their catalogue. “Amanita” doesn’t smack you in the face with an initial burst of noise like many of the lesser songs on the album, instead building and releasing throughout the songs 5 1/2 minutes.
On first listen it would be easy to draw the conclusion that The xx’s new album “Coexist” is just a rehash of their critically lauded 2009 album “xx”. Surely many of the same elements from their debut are present on it’s followup: the simple song structures, the spaces within the music, the downbeat atmospherics, and the conversational interplay between the band’s male and female vocalist. But there’s a clear evolution in the band’s sound on “Coexist”, an evolution that is perhaps most evident during the albums midsection, on songs like “Sunset.” The stuttering drums that propel the song through it’s first half sound new and fresh, but it isn’t until the second part of the song, after things have gone virtually silent for a second of two, that the band’s innovations become crystal clear. A choppy, stuttering beat that reminds me of a slowed down version of a The Field song (perhaps this) makes its presence known behind the vocals and guitar line. When paired up with the drums it pushes the bands sound into a new, House-y territory.
“Coexist” is clearly a breakup record and the lyrics for “Sunset” explore the title’s implications by describing the reunion of two former lovers and how both handle (and misinterpret) the situation. It’s not new territory for the band, but they handle the details of the encounter with a sense of beauty and heartbreak that enhances the lyric’s simple language.
Stream “Sunset” and the rest of “Coexist” at the link below: