Release Date: Jan 26, 2010
Record label: Paw Tracks
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The resulting album comes across, for the most part, as a peaceful, relaxing—if extremely weird—trip through a newfound musical slipstream. As on almost every Animal Collective record, there are lapses of pure paranoiac tension, particularly near the end of “Two Corvettes.” “Moo Rah Rah Rain” inverses the previously immense density of the AC aesthetic by embarking on a study in broken silence, which delivers rather effectively. “Doggy” is a pulsating strummer, and one of the more joyful songs of the band’s early canon.
When the newly reissued Campfire Songs first came out in 2003, there was no such thing as Animal Collective. After releasing two albums of warped noise-pop under different combinations of weird names, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin, and Geologist were still learning how to integrate their distinct electro-acoustic preoccupations. The "Animal Collective" brand was later affixed to it, but Campfire Songs was originally intended to be the album's eponymous title.
The eight LPs Animal Collective released in the past decade display a wider, wilder range of styles than most mainstream acts endeavor to explore. While the band’s hype magnet (magnate?) status has become excessive in recent years, the music remains amorphous and exciting as it expands in new directions. It is possible, however, to discern a design within these broad parameters.
Campfire Songs is a self-titled release by three of the four members of the Animal Collective, differing from previous Animal Collective releases in its acoustic guitar instrumentation and absence of electronics. The five lengthy tracks, adding up to 40 minutes, fall somewhere between the category of "songs" and ambient pieces, with repetitive strums that sometimes verge on drone. Wispy vocals deliver all-but-indecipherable lyrics in a slightly spacy folk-psychedelic framework that flit on the edge of incomprehensibility, sometimes overlaid with outdoor noises of wind, rain, dogs, and birds.
Listener beware: those expecting another heady dose of post-apocalyptic Beach Boy harmonies mixed with MGMT-esque psychedelia, Merriweather Post Pavilion style, would do best to look elsewhere. The 2003 Campfire Songs EP - re-released here in both CD and digital format - is at once an intriguing, beguiling and ultimately frustrating record. For a band certainly not averse to a little sonic experimentation, Campfire Songs remains Animal Collective’s most ambitious statement to date.
There are many reasons why it seems so weird that Animal Collective, a group of New York noise-rock semi-weirdoes, can move nearly 150,000 albums, become your sister’s favorite band and break through to an audience that probably thought the band “sucked” 15 months ago. One of those reasons is Campfire Songs, the third album by the Collective, which is being reissued due to the set going out of print recently. It’s the album that validates every criticism lobbed at Merriweather Post Pavilion: It’s aimless, tuneless, and weird for weird’s sake, and it’s nearly impossible to get through.