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Nutshell Concert Review: Animal Collective – Riviera Theater 10/17/13

IMG_1318Back 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:

  1. Amanita
  2. What Would I Want? Sky
  3. Wide Eyed
  4. Moonjock
  5. Lion in a Coma
  6. Today’s Supernatural
  7. Pulleys
  8. My Girls
  9. New Town Burnout
  10. Brother Sport

Encore:

  1. I Think I Can
  2. The Purple Bottle
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Nutshell Album Review: Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

Can the animal-themed indie kings do it again? Do they still have what it takes? Can they really compete with Merriweather Post Pavilion? People have been asking these speculative questions about Animal Collective in anticipation of their 9th LP Centipede Hz. Yes, it is not hard to comprehend that Merriweather Post Pavilion is their most popular album, nor is it hard to realize that there is a reason for that. But with a band like Animal Collective, it seems like it would be harder for them to make an unextraordinary album than to make a good one. So to all of the nay-sayers and the speculative question-askers, there is one simple answer to everything asked above.

Yes.

“Moonjock” opens the album with a force. First off, you can never go wrong starting an album with a countdown, especially when you know that the five extra seconds of suspense may give people a heart attack. But for the survivors, congratulations because you’ve stumbled upon a treat. This song is able to throw together the beautiful pop sound of Merriweather Post Pavilion, the intensity and pure fun of Strawberry Jam, plus the impossible weirdness that was Sung Tongs. Anyone questioning this album’s legitimacy will shut up after their first listen of this song. “Today’s Supernatural” is the second track, the first single that is chock full of chants of “Let’s go!” from Avey Tare. Another taste of what fans were craving from the band that is also stuffed with aspects of older material. “Rosie Oh” is one that dabbles on the bizarre side of Animal Collective, complete with a quirky bass beat and a drum groove blended with fun, alien-like sound effects. “Applesauce” follows that, and good lord, you need to hear this song. If you’ve heard any Animal Collective album before, you know of their 6-minute, beautiful, indie pop ballads. This is one of those, and never have they done it any better.

“Wide Eyed” is track five of the LP, and that’s the easiest way to describe the way you’ll look by the time you make it through this song. Definitely one of the obscure ones of this album (who would expect anything different?) where percussion plays a huge role in creating the sound. Next is “Father Time”, which is a song that is destined to breed adventure. If you ever need a soundtrack to your non-path-taking hike through your local forest, build it around this song. “New Town Burnout” kicks off with a solid drum beat and synth bass lead in, with the band’s cooing harmonies overpowering your ear drums in what turns out to be a slow tempo and entrancing song. The song’s force picks up throughout, all keeping the same speed and hypnotizing sound. “Monkey Riches” is a high point of this album, with amazing vocal range being shown off, along with every instrument Animal Collective had in their homes. One of the fullest songs on the album, and definitely one for you to check out.

“Mercury Man” is one of the faster songs on the album, with a very poppy feel. It also has an effect that makes it sound like the band recorded inside of a shower, which transitions in and out. It sounds like something that would be distracting, but it was actually done very well. “Pulleys”, a continuation of “Mercury Man”, keeps the tempo (and shower sounds), but continues its own separate with a lot of loud-quiet contrasts. The album is then closed with “Amanita”, a song that morphs Panda Bear’s latest LP Tomboy with sounds heard on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s album It’s A Corporate World. It doesn’t leave as much of an impact as the opening countdown, but it still is a great album closer that leaves most listeners asking when the next album is coming.

When Animal Collective sent out the release date for Centipede Hz, hipsters rejoiced that the famed electronic-psychedelic-indie-sort of rock-clan was returning. With the complete band back together (Deakin sat out of recording and touring for Merriweather Post Pavilion), they put all of their cards on the table, knocked them all on the ground, and said “let’s just doodle our own, new cards”. Centipede Hz gets a whopping 97/100 (see you later, Gossamer), and you can get it now. That means go get it now.

Centipede Hz Tracklisting:

  1. Moonjock
  2. Today’s Supernatural
  3. Rosie Oh
  4. Applesauce
  5. Wide Eyed
  6. Father Time
  7. New Town Burnout
  8. Monkey Riches
  9. Mercury Man
  10. Pulleys
  11. Amanita

Top Albums To Look Out For

There has been some recent buzzing and single circulation that has everyone all excited about new albums (some confirmed, others speculated). Here is Nutshell’s top albums to look out for in the upcoming months:

Beck – With the recent release of the “I Just Started Hating Some People Today/Blue Randy” single, Beck’s various projects seem to be coming full circle to scream “NEW ALBUM”. “Looking For A Sign” was another single released by Beck earlier this year, plus reports by country singer Dwight Yoakam and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen that he’s been in the studio. Nothing official yet, but expect it soon.

Animal Collective (Centipede Hz, due out September 4th) – After spending the large part of their 2011 tour debuting new material, Animal Collective officially announced their tenth album this past May. The cover and tracklisting have both been released, along with the non-album “Honeycomb/Gotham” single. The now 13 year old band has really hit every end of the musical spectrum, so be excited to see what they’ve come up with.

Two Door Cinema Club (Beacon, due out September 4th) – Earlier this month, Two Door’s second album was announced, including all of the info seen here. The release video that included teaser tracks has all fans of the band excited for the follow up to the platinum-selling Tourist History. This is really helping set up September 4th as a pretty great day in music.

The Strokes – Not much to be said here, other than the fact that three of the five band members have released some form of information regarding the completion of their fifth album. No title or new singles yet, but the follow up to Angles will be something to look out for.

MGMT (MGMT, no release date) – MGMT’s third studio album has received a lot of press coverage, and most of it concludes that the band is in the studio with no solid evidence of new material yet. They have been playing a new song on their South American tour called “Alien Days”, and at one point confirmed that Andrew VanWyngarden had written a handful of R.E.M. inspired songs. No singles yet, but more will come soon enough.

Muse (The 2nd Law, due out September 17th) – Muse has spent the time between their Grammy winning fifth album The Resistance and its follow up album recreating their sound. An album trailer was released on their website on June 6th, along with a countdown clock that was later tied to the release date of The 2nd Law. The band cites groups like Justice and Does It Offend You, Yeah? as influences for the album, so a world of Muse fans will be excited to hear the new sound as soon as possible.

Phoenix – Another one with no large-scale information, Phoenix’s fifth studio album has been a generally well-contained secret. The only thing to show for the recording process are a few stills that have been posted on the band’s website and reports of a late Summer 2012 release. The current photo on the band’s site is the word “Thermidor”, a month from the French Republican Calendar that spans from July 19th to August 18th, so expect some new Phoenix music around then.

If you have any more suggestions of albums to keep your eyes peeled for, comment or tweet it! @NSMusicGroup

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