Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam – Album Reviews

Written by on December 23, 2023

Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam – Review by Joshua Reedy.


My copy: 2007 press by Domino.

Following praise for their new take on indie-pop with Feels, complete with a full band embracing more traditional melodies, Animal Collective carried this momentum into the frigid, dynamic synth landscapes of Strawberry Jam. There are a few bumps in pacing, but their new sound is sharp and satisfying – trading warm, jangled guitar for brittle synth and crackling effects.

The introductory “Peacebone” immediately contrasts the gentle embraces found on Feels, instead opting for a collage of jagged samples and hissing synths that twinkle over a steady tom-focused drum beat. The vocals are more aggressive and indulge in visceral shrieks, though their melodic writing style maintains its innocent and playful tone. “Unsolved Mysteries” moves from shimmering, stitled guitar and synth to swaying rhythms complete with falsetto whoops. Their palate is now a mesh of refined digital elements, combining to create a musical gumbo made primarily of ear candy samples – similar to their early ideas albeit in a much more consumable fashion.

“Chores” is a contender for Panda Bear’s best work: a feverish bash that culminates in a series of energetic freakouts before unraveling into a hypnotic dance beat, centered lyrically on the use of cannabis. Deakin’s initially searing guitar successfully elevates Avey Tare’s emotional performance on the climatic “For Reverend Green,” which bleeds directly into the psychedelic rollercoaster ride of “Fireworks.” This first half is truly exceptional: a near flawless transition that wrangles abrasive sounds into a new pop concoction with ever-imaginative vocal expressions. The second half then halts the momentum with “#1” – a clever piece of poly-rhythmic psychedelia by all means, but an utter killer for the pacing.

“Winter Wonderland” and “Derek” are both shorter, snappier pop jams that focus on ear-worm vocal choruses. The true defining moment of the second half is Avey Tare’s emotional opus “Cuckoo Cuckoo,” delivering one of his most bone-chilling marriages of vocals and lyricism; matched by frenetic instrumental cacophonies. The 10-minute powerhouse “Safer” was intended to be the closer, but is absent from the vinyl release for its length.

Just as Sung Tongs redefined the sound of not only Animal Collective themselves, but of future generations of independent artists, Strawberry Jam has also redefined the boundaries of pop music. Strawberry Jam is difficult to pin to any one genre – certainly the vocal melodies, harsh as they can occasionally be, fall into the realm of pop music for their sense of harmony. The music is then a mixture of synthetic samples and droning notes, backed by guitars that sound just about as far from any typical guitar tone as they can. The main element allowing this album to rise so far above is its perfectly brittle, tight production, distinguishing it from their other work and from other bands of similar styles. Strawberry Jam is only cold in the sense that every sound it produces feels crisp and fresh, beckoning with a deeper gaggle of colors that paint humans in an accurately complex and dynamic fashion.


More from Joshua Reedy…

Current track