Monthly Archives: October 2013
Back last November, I expressed my large-scale excitement not only for Animal Collective’s most recent endeavor, Centipede Hz (thus the 97), but for the band as a whole. That being said, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that I would make the multi-hundred mile drive back to my native Chicago to catch the delightfully weird quartet at the Riviera Theater. Despite making the opening of their set only by the skin of my teeth, and totally missing opening act Deradoorian due to the plight of public transportation, I was able to camp myself right in the middle of the general admission crowd for quite the night.
The most fascinating part of AnCo.’s performance is that there was never silence (excluding, of course, the break just before their return for an encore). The drones and loops that characterize the group’s songs echoed through the venue from beginning to end, creating a totally encapsulating environment. The set also was stricken with variety, bouncing back and forth between the force heard on Centipede Hz and the ambient sound established on songs like non-album track “What Would I Want? Sky”. The four piece also seemed to master the idea of anticipation, with slow fade ins and edits of the most identifiable aspects of songs (most notably, the introduction to Merriweather Post Pavilion track “My Girls”). Vocalist Avey Tare also did his best keeping the crowd looking alive, with frequent questions like “Are you guys still with us?” Believe me, from my view of the crowd, they never skipped a beat.
There’s one last thing that’s to be said about this show regarding when it actually happened. This gig was initially planned for last March, just following the release of Centipede Hz, but was rescheduled due to illness in the band. Take it as you will, but this concert gained a lot from being pushed so far away from the album release, and you are probably wondering why. My reasoning is that, as assumed, the beginning of this tour was full of setlists jam-packed with new material that had barely been toured on to that point. While this is the industry standard and is almost viewed as a given, a band that’s been around as long as Animal Collective has is bound to have at least a few really solid songs from the back catalog that concert-goers expect to hear. This set was able to cover that on all ends, spanning over three albums and an EP. With a set that consisted of half “old songs”, new and old fans were both able to leave satisfied.
I will admit that I ended up being one of those fans that jumped on the Animal Collective train after the release of Merriweather (there’s a reason it is hailed as their best album), but since 2009 I dove deep into the music of the indie kings. As a band that is often regarded as hit-or-miss with their live performances, I was pleasantly surprised. So kudos to Animal Collective, and I should note that they’re touring until December. So…get on that fans.
Animal Collective’s Riviera Setlist, 10/17/13:
- What Would I Want? Sky
- Wide Eyed
- Lion in a Coma
- Today’s Supernatural
- My Girls
- New Town Burnout
- Brother Sport
- I Think I Can
- The Purple Bottle
It still strikes me as odd that there are plenty of “MGMT fans” out there that are totally unaware of the fact that the album Congratulations exists. Whether it be that they’re naive, are ignoring the fact that the band came out with songs that aren’t “Kids”, or just stopped listening to music in 2009, the follow-up to Oracular Spectacular has been consistently hailed as the group’s lesser-known, weirder, and even less-liked successor. The most exciting part about album number three, the self-titled MGMT, is that it boldly shows that the band doesn’t care about the negative press at all. They’ve even gone as far as striking Oracular tracks like “Kids” from their live set to make room for the album that frontman Andrew VanWyngarden has referred to simply as (I’m paraphrasing here) music that the band actually likes. What that means isn’t up to me to decide, but what I can decide is how I try to make you feel about this album. As always, my attempts to be unbiased will quickly implode and you will totally see through my “reporting” right into my opinion. SO HERE WE GO.
For fans that have been waiting for this album for three years, the opening to “Alien Days” is like a very exciting prologue. A slow-building key part, VanWyngarden’s pitch-bent vocals that eventually morph into his identifiable sound, and lengthy additions of percussion eventually burst into the trancey, “Metanoia”-like track. The song, which was also the album’s first single, is the perfect medium between weirdness and consonance until it, in wonderful MGMT fashion, abruptly falls apart at the end before fading out. The second song is “Cool Song No. 2”, a tribal and deep-sounding track that has an almost Animal Collective-like element. Full of ambient noises and sound effects, this one surely does prove to be a new sound for the band. “Mystery Disease” is extraordinarily jammy, which is a direction the band was very vocal about pursuing. Perfect for some on-stage improvisation, this track has the same feel that radiates throughout the rest of MGMT. Up next is a cover of Faine Jade’s “Introspection”, which ends up being one of the most attractive songs on the album. After this the album explodes into single “Your Life Is A Lie”, which is both purely MGMT and strangely goofy. This song was the spark of my personal excitement for the album, bringing a rarely-seen sense of power from the psychedelic duo.
“A Good Sadness” is the next track, providing another track that is trancey and jammy, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being soaked in reverb and pushed towards the back. This song seems to take a lot of influence from MGMT’s fellow experimental bands in today’s indie scene, and it works out to their advantage. That flows into “Astro-Mancy”, which is a very percussion-driven song. It’s also another one on the album that is heavily layered with sound effects and ambient noises. “I Love You Too, Death” is a very unique track, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being performed in a way that makes this sound like a Yo La Tengo song, and it is definitely one of the highlights of this album. MGMT then closes with “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea”, which is led by a ripping and echoing drum beat with an acoustic guitar underneath almost swing-style vocals, and “An Orphan Of Fortune”, which has a drone-style rock feel that is totally unexpected, yet it leaves you very excited for the future of MGMT.
These guys have been given a lot of flack over the years for not continuing to make chart-dominating pop hits. They’re a really strange situation where they had a chance to become a musical super power, but chose to instead make the music they want to make. That is nothing short of commendable. For an album that’s been called “confusing” (along with being put in the flat-out rude “Worst New Music” section in Spin) MGMT seems to be the exact opposite of that. The duo is focused on having fun and enjoying themselves, which is always the most important thing. And if that isn’t worth it to you, then at least this is a solid album anyways. MGMT gets a 90/100 and is available now.
- Alien Days
- Cool Song No. 2
- Mystery Disease
- Your Life Is A Lie
- A Good Sadness
- I Love You Too, Death
- Plenty Of Girls In The Sea
- An Orphan Of Fortune