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"Strawberry Jam" feels like space dust and radar falling on the desert and making it bloom. It's the sound of a band spinning wildly and intoxicated, at the cusp of their powers, as thick and rich and sweet and colorful as it sounds.
Animal Collective takes up where they left off with 2005's Feels, continuing with more traditional rock instrumentation (underlying a wealth of bizarre noises, rhythmic loops, and effects, naturally). The songs were written in a live setting (and polished on tours), and certainly convey that energy. They also convey the madcap experimentation that is the band's hallmark. As with Feels, or the preceding Sung Tongs, this is tempered by stellar songwriting ability, the ultimate factor in its success. The album opens with "Peacebone," an immediate indicator of the oddball, inspiring pop that follows. Its lyrics seem to be an inspirational missive on seizing the day, but then who can tell? On "Chores," Panda Bear puts in a manic sing-song with his Brian Wilson tenor, over a driving bed of sound effects and synth noises. "For Reverend Green" starts with a distorted wash of tremolo guitar and soon gives way to one of the finest pop songs the band has offered. Granted, it may not be radio pop, what with the mouth noises and surreal lyrics, but that's no small part of its charm. "Winter Wonder Land" is manic fist-pumping pop of the first order, and the crackly mellow piano sample opening "Cuckoo Cuckoo" does not prepare one for its pounding bombast. 2007 has been a typically prolific year for the band, and despite (or because of?) all their divergent pet projects, they've managed to improve with each outing. One can never quite tell what's next, and that's half the glory. Animal Collective's irreverence, absurdity, openness, and sheer melodic prowess conspire to produce yet another exceptional album. --Jason Pace