Collecting Animals: An Email Exchange

Mar 2, 2012 by


On any given night, during the commute home, I might call Matt (or he might call me) to extoll the virtues, or slam the faults, of whichever indie band is currently lighting up the airwaves.  On more than one occasion, it’s been Animal Collective we’ve batted around.  I’m not a huge fan, and to be honest, I’m not even sure how much Matt likes them.  He might love them, he might just like them.  I’ve never asked, I’ve always been too busy dismissing them to find out what he thinks.  I know he has them on vinyl in his sweet little man-cave, so he at least likes them.

In the early afternoon of February 15th, Matt had finally had enough of my back handed dismissal and decided to get to the bottoms of it.  His thoughts are in black, my responses are in blue.  Feel free to chime in with your opinion of the Animal Collective.


From: Alan Wright
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2012 11:58 AM
To: Matt Ankerson
Subject: RE: Animal Collective

I answered all your questions below…


From: Matt Ankerson
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 1:14 PM
To: Alan Wright
Subject: Animal Collective

It’s strange to me that you do not like Animal Collective.  I am having a hard time understanding this, not that you would love them, but more that they would work for you in a particular time or place.  I think you do not like them for one, or a combination of, the reasons below.

  • Their lyrics are too fluffy for you or something to the fact that you can’t stand what they write about.

If I could even understand what the hell he was saying, I might agree with you.  Not that understanding lyrics matter, my favorite REM albums are the ones when Stipe is singing through a bunch of marbles.  The difference between those REM songs and Animal Collective is that when I look the lyrics up, Animal collective are really fairly straight forward.  If he were an artist in the traditional sense, he’d sculpt busts of people you’ve never heard of; then he’d paint really wacky colors on them.  Stipe, on the other hand, would be an impressionist painter doing swirling psychedelic southern gothic scenes that make no sense, yet feel utterly familiar.  

  • Anyone who goes by the name Panda Bear is utterly retarded in your mind

I have to admit, I hate his name.  I love Pandas though.

  • You knew of someone that was absolutely head over heels in love with Animal Collective. They were too over the top for you in their passion, or you simply hated that person and everything they stood for.

The first option, I really like Josiah on XMU, but holy shit was he all over the Animal Collective in 2009 and 2010.  I remember when I first heard him talk about them.  I was only marginally aware of their music, so since I like him, and he’s talking them up, I’m pretty excited to hear this new track from THE ANIMAL COLLECTIVE!!! And then he played it, and I’m thinking “This is what all the fucking fuss is about”.   You know what it made me think of?  That really bad band Animotion.  I’m not saying they actually sound like that, but that’s still what I think of whenever I hear them.

  • The album Merriweather Post Pavilion that was hailed by critics and fans, as well as brought a larger audience turned you off for some reason.

It’s just like any of their other albums.  I don’t hate it any more or less than anything else they’ve done.  Though, I will say that anytime I hear the name, Merriweather Post Pavilion, I instantly think Dead Show.   I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think Animal Collective at the MPP would be nearly as fun as the Dead.

  • You hate their sound, but I am not buying this argument from you.  I can explain this if you would like.

 You might have to explain this, because I really hate their sound.  Ever since you emailed me this, I’ve stopped turning the station when they come on and I really try to listen to it with an open mind.  I still end up hating it.  I get the whole “head phone” sound, and I can see how laying in my dorm room, or my apartment, listening to this with headphones on stoned out of my mind might be fun.  If I was still the kind to take acid, and sit in the dark listening to music, this could be fun.  But ultimately, it just bores the shit out of me.  I can see that it has some marginal value as a “make out album” too, but everything’s a make-out album to me, so that might not be saying much.

I get that they’re “experimental” – it’s not about tight songs – and I’m alright with that.  It’s no secret that I like under three minute pop songs, both beautiful and trashy, but I have my experimental side as well.  I just tend to gravitate to guitar based experimentation.  Even when Panda uses guitars, he does everything he can to make them not sound like a guitar.   Oooooh, you’re so experimental.

I listened to Brother Sport the other night, and while I could appreciate the sounds and collage effect of the song, it was painful sitting through the whole thing.

I tried to think of it as just an updated version of Pet Sounds, or some other psychedelic wall of sound band that I like, but instead I end up hearing Brian Eno.  Not the good Brian Eno, but the Experimental Ambient Sound Brian Eno.

That song, like many others, has some piece that sounds like another band, and I end up wanting to hear that other band instead of the one I’m listening to.  Brother Sport, for instance, has some parts that sound like the vocalizing that Dirty Projectors does, and then I really would rather be listening to the Dirty Projectors.

When it comes down to it, it’s not the kind of music that moves me.  I can tell that it’s heartfelt and earnest, and I appreciate that, but it lacks anything even remotely organic and that’s where it loses me.  If their music was the score to a movie, I’d think it was fantastic.  It’s just not the score to my life.

I feel like I’m listening to robots singing about love when I listen to them. 

  • Brooklyn is the hipster capital of the world and fuck them and any band that hails from this NYC borough.

I feel like this about a lot of Brooklyn bands, but I also like a lot of bands from there, so I can’t say I hate them all.  I do miss the days when music from New York meant it was dirty and ragged, and not just a bunch of hipsters with big glasses playing with their keyboards.  (Before all of our fans in Brooklyn start freaking out and sending me hate mail – I know this isn’t the case with all music from Brooklyn.  It has a varied sound ranging from metal to punk to rap, to the current indie music du jour.  It’s where Lou Reed and Old Dirty Bastard hail from for crissakes.)

Bands I like from the new Brooklyn scene that have similar elements to Animal Collective and why I like them more:

Sleigh Bells – because they capture some of that dirty ragged sound that I expect from a place like Brooklyn.  Unlike Panda, Sleigh Bells don’t mind their guitars sounding like guitars, and they’ve got lots of them, along with samples, hip hop beats, and sweet vocals about creepy shit.  To me, they are the essence of what is happening in Brooklyn, and really the main reason anyone should care about this particular scene.

Matt and Kim – because they are not afraid to embrace the pop band inside.  They’re still hipster doofus, but they bounce and make you want to shake your ass, not lay down and take a nap.

Dirty Projectors – The vocal interplay between David Longstreth and the Girls (Amber Coffman and Angel Deradorian) is fucking amazing.  Even when the harmonies are off, it’s still great.  Also, they released an album – Rise Above – it’s the entire Damaged album, by Black Flag –recreated as Longstreth remembers it after not having listened to it for 15 years. Obviously I’m going to love them if they cover Black Flag.

Which is it?

To answer this, I’m going to have to go back to your original premise “…would work for you in a particular time or place”; I think you’re probably right.  I’m just not in that time or place anymore (or not yet, depending on your perspective).

I am, however, willing to sit in your little man-cave, stoned out of my mind, while you try to convince me otherwise…

Matt Ankerson


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