Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP

[Domino; 2009]

Animal Collective started 2009 as the most hyped band in the indiesphere and spent the year proving why it was deserved. Merriweather Post Pavilion was the record against which every other was measured. They all fell short.

The release of Fall Be Kind, a five-song EP of MPP leftovers, shows that the band’s scraps are as good as the best of what most other acts can offer.

Listening to Animal Collective – be it Fall Be Kind, Merriweather Post Pavilion, or anything else – rarely evokes other bands, though. These guys practically exist in a vacuum.

After being kicked around live for as long as any of the other tracks on Merriweather, “Graze” was ultimately left off that record, but it now has a home as the opener on Fall Be Kind. Though it lacks the dynamism of the live version – the shift from the vocal rumination to pan flute-driven frenzy is muted by comparison – it would have fit just fine on Merriweather.

“Graze” segues perfectly into “What Would I Want? Sky,” which features a tasteful use of the first ever Grateful Dead sample, an iconic voice overshadowed by Avey Tare’s hazy introspection.

“Bleed” slows things down, repeating the same two stanzas without aim or percussion. “On a Highway” finds Tare being uncharacteristically straightforward in his chronicling of loneliness and neuroses of life on the road.

Fall Be Kind is Animal Collective’s fourth EP and likewise the fourth to follow a proper album. Each time in the past, these EPs have bridged the stylistic gap between records, touchstones in the evolution of an ever-evolving band: Prospect Hummer portended Feels, People portended Strawberry Jam, and Water Curses portended Merriweather Post Pavilion. That is, taken with the EPs, the shifts Animal Collective make from album to album seem more logical.

It’s impossible to predict just where the band goes next, but Fall Be Kind seems to offer a lot of hints, most of all on closer “I Think I Can.” The seven-minute Panda Bear showcase has plenty of what Merriweather does best: jarring rhythms, boiler plate profundity, synthesized goosebumps. But it builds on the brand a bit, perhaps peeking at the future for both the band and all of music, at the very least tightening up what Animal Collective does best. Everyone else has a lot of catching up to do.