Animal Collective 

Strawberry Jam

Since the noise-folk of 2004's Sung Tongs, Animal Collective has been infusing its cacophony with pop melody. With each subsequent release, however, the band seems to shed a little more of its noisy, chaotic roots. Strawberry Jam is almost completely devoid of the meandering ambience and tribal caterwauling of the more experimental Here Comes the Indian. What's left are beautiful, experimental pop songs. "Peacebone" is a catchy pop song built around a warped sample of a mariachi band. With its playful vocal harmonies and polyrhythmic beat, "Chores" feels like a psychedelic "Graceland." And like the music, the lyrics are surprisingly lucid for an Animal Collective album. On album highlight "For Reverend Green," singer Avey Tare muses about the pitfalls of adulthood from a childlike perspective ("Sometimes you don't know yourself, eating lots of vitamins for your health"). Although it may lack the atmospherics of its predecessors, Strawberry Jam still sounds entirely like an Animal Collective album, and one of its best at that. 4 stars

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