A new Animal Collective album, which will be released Aug. 17 on Domino Records, debuts in the year 2018, a year that the ICRI — International Coral Reef Initiative — dubbed the “Year of the Reef.” As a result of environmental pollution, the Great Barrier Reef has been deteriorating for years now, and its decay has provided one of the few real-time manifestations of global warming.
In light of the ecological emergency, parties from across the world have begun mobilizing efforts to reconstruct and protect the natural wonder, which might explain the title — “Best of Times (Worst of All)” — on the closing track of Animal Collective’s upcoming album.
In an attempt to grab hold of this topical marketing opportunity, AnCo is finally releasing material that they have kept under the surface for over a year. “Tangerine Reef” features songs with titles like “Buffalo Tomato” and “Hip Sponge” that echo their Ween-like ability to take music as seriously as they must.
The lead track, “Hair Cutter,” takes this mood of water and sea seriously and begins the album with ambient electronic improvisations that sound like dripping plops of water under reverb-heavy backgrounded synths. The track, which is also the lead single, swims around through the voice of Avey Tare, a founding member of Animal Collective — the other being Noah Lennox, commonly referred to as Panda Bear. Tare’s usual crooning vocalizations are trimmed down from leads to support the mood of the song rather than progress it conventionally.
From flops like 2016’s “Painting With” to their defining record “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” Animal Collective’s overall conceptual follow-through is their greatest continuing strength. On “Spirit They’re Gone…” the listeners find themselves bouncing between audio channels with barely tolerable lo-fi experiments clacking against Tare and Bear’s falsettos.
On “Strawberry Jam,” the focus is scattered, but the result is like a mixed-media painting, where styles and techniques are used but altogether favored less than color and brightness, causing the album to care more about its projection rather than its content.
Listeners will anxiously be anticipating the 11th studio album from the Baltimore mind-altering squad since conceptuality is their best attribute. The session synergy that manifests from the mysterious combination of Tare, Bear, Deakin and Geologist is rarely divulged before an album’s unveiling, so why not be excited about one of the defining alt-pop bands of the 2000s releasing a concept album about coral reefs, with a full-length audiovisual film releasing alongside it.