Evaluating an Animal Collective album is a daunting task. Whereas a couple of spins of most artists’ records will give you a good sense of their charms, hearing any of Animal Collective’s work just a few times is barely scratching the surface. If first impressions hold true, however, the journey on which fans are about to embark with the band’s latest full length, Centipede Hz, stands to be as rewarding as any Animal Collective has sent them on before.
After the overwhelmingly positive critical reception to 2009’s Merriwhether Post Pavillion (“best album ever” was thrown around more than a few times), it’s refreshing that Centipede Hz finds Animal Collective taking the same risks they did before they were elevated to the status of indie rock gods. Rather than expand on the more universal accessibility of songs like “My Girls,” the band has crafted a set of songs that sound more chaotic and jarring than their recent predecessors, with Avey Tare reviving his beloved scream on standouts like “Today’s Supernatural.” Still, the electronic influences of their recent work are most certainly at play here, with blips and synths decorating the songs’ underlying rock rhythms.
Lyrically, Animal Collective’s songs have always ranged from obtuse and impenetrable to sharp and profound, and Centipede Hz is no exception. While we may never know the meaning of “Fish! Fish! Fish! Fish! I met a monkey rich” from “Monkey Riches,” other lines, like the repeated “lift this weight” on “New Town Burnout,” are much more relatable. At its most interesting, as on the fruit-imagery-packed “Applesauce,” the band presents us with a combination of the two, cloaking their insights in words so strange they could only come from Animal Collective.
The album also benefits from strong sequencing, since even though a few tracks fail to resonate like the others, the closing group of songs present a wide array of hooks that make for a strong conclusion. Although Centepide Hz’s full appeal will surely unravel with repeated listens, first impressions of Animal Collective’s newest work find them playing to their strengths—making musing that is insightful, oddly hooky, and very, very weird.