Sung Tongs by Animal Collective (Review)

If loving Animal Collective is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Sung Tongs - Animal Collective

If you should choose to pick up a copy of this new release by Brooklyn band Animal Collective, prepare to find your friends distancing themselves a little from you. No doubt most might find you a bit odd if you heard something likeable in this utterly weird, colorful pastiche of soaring harmonies, schizophrenic instrumentation, tribal rhythms, and bouyant happiness. More than one of my friends has walked away proclaiming it’s obnoxious and they hate it.

And on first listen, I wouldn’t have blamed them. What I heard was an inaccessible blend of what sounded like The Beach Boys thrown in a blender along with tons of hallucinogenic drugs and handfuls of seemingly intentionally difficult indie experimentalism, a weird concoction that, when mixed together, sounds like some of the least palatable music on the entire planet. It was a headfuck, for sure, a record that threw my ears for a loop and never at once sounded the least bit entertaining.

But somehow, for some reason, I began to like it. And now, I can safely proclaim I’ve fallen in love with it. Maybe I’m one of the few, and certainly, most won’t like Animal Collective no matter how many times they listen to it. And maybe I’m just blinded by my weirded out music critic viewpoint. But if loving Animal Collective is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

There’s something incredibly infectious about this record. A few listens will show you that this band, lead by the dearly named duo of Avery Tan and Panda Bear, are masters when it comes to making extremely catchy, poppy songs — they just choose to mask it with plenty of interesting sonics and time changes.

Just listen to the one-two punch of the first two tracks, “Leaf House” and “Who Could Win A Rabbit.” The former finds Avery and Panda using their vocals to their full advantage. Whether they’re stretching them to incredible heights, using vocals for percussive effect, or meowing like cats, they never cease to be beautifully melodic. The latter, the album’s first single, is an infinitely catchy acoustic song that seems to suffer from attention deficit disorder, jumping from here to there and sending your brain for a tailspin.

The opening two tracks are arguably the album’s finest moments, but there are still plenty of treats to be had later on. The pretty and mellow “The Softest Voice” slows things down to a dreamy pace, while “Kids On Holiday” and “Sweet Road” dish out plenty of more hooks for you to sing along to. The awesome “We Tigers” pounds along with tribal drums, childish melodies, and what are probably the album’s craziest, wackiest vocal stylings.

The last couple of tracks, while not as hyperactive as the ones that preceded them, are still excellent. “Good Lovin Outside” is a nice, bendy, and nostalgic song that is probably the album’s most conventional song, and the oddly adorable “Whaddit I Done” is one of its weirdest, with distorted, wah-wah’d vocals that will probably leave you scratching your head before you learn to love it.

As much as I like this CD, I just have to wonder how long I’ll like it before the excitement wears off. Part of me thinks it’s such a trip to listen to, and that it’s too weird to feel emotionally connected to it, that I won’t be putting it in my CD player often. But for now that looks like an unlikely future, and Sung Tongs is finding residence in my CD player more than any other album I’ve got recently. Highly recommended, and worth losing some friends over. They just don’t understand.

Written by Richie DeMaria.

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