June 24, 2004

Animal Collective "Sung Tongs"

Those crazy critters of the Animal Collective are back at it again with a second helping of their patented brand of…uh…well, ”frenetic, psychedelic campfire folk” is the best description I can muster at the moment. From the chorus of cicadas that flood Sung Tongs’ opener “Leaf House” with a sense of pure summery goodness to those agitated wolves overseeing the bubbling, murky musical swamp they seem to create for themselves on “Kids On Holiday”, Animal Collective live up to their moniker and manage to conjure up images of our furry, woodland friends quite effectively.

Vivid images of lovable forest-dwelling creatures aside, what initially struck me about Sung Tongs was the intricate, gorgeous soundscapes the group could create from just a few voices, two acoustic guitars, tape loops, and some bits of percussion. Tracks like “Winters Love” and “We Tigers” illustrate my point with a few chords strummed on a rickety acoustic guitar and simple counterpoint vocal harmonies providing the foundation for each song’s lush, gorgeous melody. It’s great to see that even with the most basic of tools, these guys can create something just as potent- maybe even more so- as someone with an entire fleet of Guitar Center coupons at their disposal. Less is more, indeed.

Sadly, there’s a bit of filler in Sung Tongs’ second half that bogs down the entire album from reaching truly awesome heights: “Visiting Friends” is essentially two chords played for a progressively excruciating 13 minutes, while closing track “Whaddit I Done” ends the album on sort of a sour note with an irritating wah pedal-affected voice intoning about…something majestic, I would presume. Fortunately, these two tracks don’t detract too much from what is otherwise an outstanding, lovingly crafted release. Animal Collective have one-upped last year’s Here Comes The Indian in spades with a set of beautiful, infectiously exuberant songs that show a group in the throes of something truly unique and wonderful.

--Jonathan Pfeffer

Artist Website: http://www.paw-tracks.com/
Label Website: http://www.fat-cat.co.uk/

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