With heavy handed synth-backed, techno machinations and layered with frantic, anti-pop vocals, Animal Collective returns to the musical fray with their ninth studio album Centipede Hz, released on Domino Records. From track one, this album feels dead set to get listeners off the musical bleachers, turning up the volume and paying attention. While their songs can toe the line of the anthemic, on Centipede Hz they opt for a more high risk, high reward techno-melodic fun, a la MGMT. Known for more synthetic, asymmetrical musical backdrops to their albums, they continue this trend with a more unpredictable and electric energy than has been heard before. This is an album full of ambition that skirts the line of pretense in lieu of the genuine fun audiences will feel the band had in creating it.
Their first three tracks, "Moonjock," "Today’s Supernatural," and "Rosie Oh," vault listeners headlong into a sort of cacophonous appetizer to what later becomes a more even-tempered and borderline experimental album. Weaving audibly similar and vaguely congruent sonic undertones and uniquely abrasive vocals, songs like "New Town Burnout," and "Monkey Riches" link together via a bridged synthetic ending tying into an introduction of the other and bringing about a conglomerate experience reminiscent of an edgy, frantic DJ set. One could forget to follow the lyrics so much that they become seen as another sonic layer matched against the electronic fabric of the album, and this never feels like a detraction. While some listeners may get caught up in the sometimes off-putting and whiney vocals, they seem to find their place amidst the chaos.
While the synthesized melodies and sunny, sometimes chaotic vocals may be the trend for this band, listeners may feel as if they’re hearing a MGMT or Vampire Weekend B-side that didn’t quite make the cut. These aren’t boring tracks or stolen vibes by any means; but the energy, while full of passion, isn’t an unheard-of finished product here. That being said, often times it’s the techno-bouncy incarnations interlaced with the vocals that stick out most prominently on Centipede Hz, bringing a seemingly melodic order to chaos in a rather enjoyable and delicious fashion. For all their positive energy here, this is not necessarily a "feel good" album, however it carries with it an upbeat sense of unease. It does feel like a natural progression for this band, however not into altogether uncharted musical territory. This does not dilute the ripe fun factor to be enjoyed but also makes one wish they had pushed the envelope just a bit more.
Centipede Hz is a step forward for Animal Collective while not really coloring to riskily outside the lines. They created a solidly fun and surprising album that offers some new sounds from a not so new band and yet for all its pomp and circumstance, remains enjoyably accessible.