This Animal Collective article was written by Daniel Kirby. Edited by Josh Hummerston
Animal Collective are capable of creating music that can be as fun and captivating , but they can also leave you feeling a little frustrated. The four-piece from Baltimore, Maryland in the U.S. have always been a band that likes to experiment. Their early material, consisting of four studio albums and a live recording, featured of a blend of folk, noise, drone, ambient, tribal and psychedelia. Some of it was sweet and melodic, while other parts were more abrasive and challenging. It was on 2004’s ‘Sung Tongs,’a stripped back experimental folk album packed with melody and harmony, where things really started to click.
They followed this up with 2005’s ‘Feels’ and 2007’s ‘Strawberry Jam,’ both critical successes and albums bursting with ideas, adding elements of electronica, rock and pop to an already wide range of styles honed during their formative years. Having shown glimpses of what they were capable of, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding the release of ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ in early 2009. It certainly didn’t disappoint, being their biggest critical and commercial success to date. It was also their most accessible, featuring a psychedelic pop sound with plenty of deep bass and Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies. After the excellent ‘Fall Be Kind’ EP in late 2009, their next studio album came in 2012, but despite some nice moments ‘Centipede Hz’ fell short of their earlier output.
‘Live at 9:30’ is the bands first official live album and was recorded during the final show of a three night run at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., taking place from 10-12 June in 2013 as part of the ‘Centipede Hz’ tour. It also serves as a warm-up release for their next studio album, the recording process for which was completed this past July. The album features a nearly two hour performance of 13 tracks taken from material released between 2005 and 2012, almost half of which features on ‘Centipede Hz.’
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The set opens strongly with three solid performances which includes a slightly slowed down version of fan favourite ‘Did You See the Words.’ Their biggest hit ‘My Girls’ is where you expect things to really take off but it’s let down by some off-pitch vocal performances, the first of several to come. ‘Moonjock’ gets things back on course again before the set goes on a meandering 30 minute journey with song ‘out there’ providing for an all round poor performance. Despite this the band execute an excellent rendition of track ‘I Think I Can.’ ‘Next comes ‘What Would I Want? Sky’ which is then followed up by ‘Peacebone,’ thankfully ending the set on a high, before the band return for a nearly 30 minute encore which closes the show with a strong performance of the wild and energetic ‘The Purple Bottle.’
The set list may look pretty good on paper as it features a range of hits and fan favourites, but sadly though the performance is let down by a number of songs that are badly executed, the biggest issue being some off-pitch vocal performances and the drawn-out middle section. All of this leaves the album struggling to gain any real momentum. Despite the ups and downs, it’s still a solid enough live album, giving a fairly honest portrayal of what it is Animal Collective do. At times they’re fun and captivating, but they can also leave you feeling a little frustrated.
‘Live at 9:30’ is out now via Domino.