There’s a reason I’ve amassed a cache of Animal Collective releases over the last four years, and it’s not just because they keep putting stuff out there and I keep eating it up. Animal Collective has been pushing the boundaries of whatever genre you wish to call it since their debut. And, it’s true, whenever a new AC artifact is announced, I’m all over it. I’ve been trying to figure out an angle for this Water Curses review. If you’re anything at all like me, a review isn’t going to sell you on the EP, you’re just going to buy it regardless.
Reviews of the EP and its album predecessor, Strawberry Jam have been mostly favorable but with a few detractors (Treble named it “Album of the Week” and it landed at #10 in our Top 50 Albums of 2007. Some have even gone so far to say that after hearing solo efforts by members Panda Bear and Avey Tare (the latter with his wife, a former member of múm) that their musical styles were so disjointed, there was no way they could continue as a group. I say different. Water Curses, though it is three-fourths outtakes from their last album and one new song, finds Avey and Panda at their cohesive best. This short collection does feel, however, more like an offshoot of Panda Bear’s Person Pitch than off of AC’s Strawyberry Jam.
Panda’s album had that same undersea feel that translates directly into the carnival-like, bubbly opening title track and the Brian Wilson-like “Street Flash.” “Cobwebs” sounds similarly submerged, as if Animal Collective were recording in some aquarium, like how the Sea World biologists speak to you as they’re feeding the undersea creatures while you watch. “Seal Eyeing,” the one ‘new’ track on the EP, is an aural stunner, with the most gorgeous piano I’ve ever heard from the band. Water Curses, despite its threatening title, is much more meditative and serene than their previous work, like a relaxing aperitif after a sumptuous, spicy meal. Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s words are much more decipherable and with direction. Because of these last few features, AC fans might be split, but I’m holding my breath to hear the underwater symphonies.