The first ten: 5, Animal Collective, Feels

Ben Thompson admires the furry friends who refuse to operate in a confined area

Ever since they recorded a collaborative EP with acid-folk muse Vashti Bunyan in 2004, this wiggily industrious East Coast quartet have been looming on the horizon with the tragi-comic inevitability of a police car in Mark Morrison's rear view mirror. With a huge, ready-made constituency now crying out for another bold, expansive, boundary-pushing art-rock album which sounds a bit like the Arcade Fire, the omens for Feels could hardly be more propitious.

It starts with a suitably euphoric flourish in the shifting shape of 'Did You See the Words'. Icelandic special guest, Mum's Kristin Anna Valtysdottir, supplies a twinkly piano which might turn into 'Jingle Bells' at any moment. And an indie-skiffle drumbeat so insistent it's almost tribal accompanies awestruck sensory testimony of the 'inky periods drip from your mailbox' variety from Brian-Eno-in-mid-helium-balloon vocalist Avey Tare.

While this grand opening certainly shares some of the Arcade Fire's sense of occasion, Animal Collective have been working together for too long - having been in existence in one form or another since 1992 - to take their cues from anyone else. At first there's something intimidating about how secure they seem to be within their own world, but as Feels unfolds, more and more space opens up for the listener to join them. And in the end, this turns out to be Panda, Deakin, Geologist (I'm sorry, but those really are the names they want us to call them by) and the aforementioned Avey Tare's most dynamic and accessible record to date.

What they've actually done is picked up the baton that Mercury Rev put down when they forsook the free jazz/psychedelic cusp for a steady living as purveyors of menopausal pomp-rock. And, from the tap-dancing elephants of 'The Purple Bottle' to the whispered mantras of 'Banshee Beat', the skittish delirium that results is wildly compulsive.

Burn it: 'Did You See the Words'; 'Banshee Beat'


Ben Thompson

The GuardianTramp

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