Named after their favourite 1960s rock venue and featuring no songs longer than six minutes, Animal Collective's hugely-anticipated ninth album is their most "pop." And yet, initially it makes no sense at all. Why are they combining hallucinatory kaleidoscopic sounds with thundering, almost junglist beats? What right has an avant-garde Baltimore folk-rock sampler band got to sound like Philip Glass? There are wind chimes, bleeps, tribal yelps and lyrics so abstract you couldn't begin to guess what they are, or mean. However, as the beguiling melodies take hold they unveil a tapestry of magic. From the impossibly blissful My Girls to the Beck-meets-Beach Boys glissando whirl of Summertime Clothes, this is a joyful, transcendent record somehow reminiscent of kids let loose in a musical sandpit. As winter rages around us, it ushers in the warmth and sets a high musical benchmark for others to match this year.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author