Capable of being captivating and but also quite frustrating since they first appeared with Spirit They’re Gone Spirit They’ve Vanished in 2000, live performances of the loose quartet Animal Collective have regularly mirrored their studio recordings over the years.
Their early experimentations came together in magnificent ways during their 2004-2009 creative peak, culminating in the psychedelic pop perfection of Merriweather Post Pavilion and its more experimental follow-up EP Fall Be Kind. However, most of their output in the decade since then has failed to reach similar heights.
To celebrate ten years since the release of their biggest album comes Ballet Slippers. Their second official live album after 2015’s hit-and-miss Live at 9:30, it features twelve tracks taken from four separate Merriweather Post Pavilion tour sets, performed in late May and early June 2009.
Mixed together as though it were a full live performance, Ballet Slippers is very much an album of two halves. The first is a largely flat and forgettable affair, with Merriweather Post Pavilion opener ‘In The Flowers’ and one of its three singles ‘Summertime Clothes’ both lacking the energy of their studio versions
The albums biggest hit ‘My Girls’ additionally suffers from a poor vocal performance, as does ‘Guys Eyes’. The inclusion of ‘Who Could Win a Rabbit’ from 2004’s Sung Tongs and ‘Bleed’ from Fall Be Kind add a bit of variety, but the whole first half sounds no better than a bootlegged concert recorded on a mobile phone.
The second half sees a vast improvement, bringing some much needed atmosphere and energy to the album. Beginning with a ten minute ‘Banshee Beat’ from 2005’s Feels, it bursts into life on Merriweather Post Pavilion‘s ‘Lion in a Coma’ which features some addition sounds not heard on the studio version.
The stand out moment however is arguably the twenty minute ‘Lablakely Dress/Fireworks’ which combines one of their early tracks with one of their most vibrant from 2007’s Strawberry Jam. Driven by skipping percussion, the guitar breaks into a lengthy solo midway through which perfectly highlights Animal Collective at their experimental best.
Ballet Slippers is available now via Domino Recordings