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9/10 Ozzystylez 11th January 2018
Early Animal Collective records were like some kind of fever dream which you weren't unhappy to be stuck in. In fact, if I ever fall in to a coma during which my mind is allowed to frolic gaily through the macabre forest in which "Feels" exists, I would be quite content. I would be upset, in fact, to be woken from that coma to find myself in a hospital bed, surrounded by relieved looking doctors and loved ones, and I will scream out in distress and sadness and plead for them to put me back under.
Miles removed from the sound that the band began to make on "Strawberry Jam", perfected on "Merriweather Post Pavilion" and made unlistenable by the release of 2016's "Painting With", "Feels" represents the zenith of the first phase of Animal Collective's career. There is an almost womb-like comfort to the production that continues the trend set in earlier work, "Here Comes the Indian", and wrenching oneself away from it can sometimes recreate the feeling a new-born must experience when it emerges into the real world and is told that there's no going back.
Real acoustic campfire instruments are still in use although they are drenched in reverb and so unrecognisable to human ears, and the vocal harmonies between Avey Tare and Panda Bear are insanely loopy. The lyrics, too, can be nutty, and often come at you fast, sounding like deranged nursery rhymes. There is a naivety to songs like "The Purple Bottle" and "Turn Into Something" which hint at a fear of growing up or getting older, and "Feels" regularly sounds like a Teletubbies album aimed at children, albeit Teletubbies who are into mind-altering substance abuse with a knack for a catchy hook.
"Did You See the Words", "Grass" and the aforementioned "Purple Bottle" are zany ditties which shouldn't work within a pop framework because of their sheer hyperactive madness, but they do. However, it is the album's lazier tracks that I could spend a happy coma basking in. "Bees", "Banshee Beat" and "Loch Raven" have a hypnotic quality to them which I only discovered as they lulled me to sleep on the back of a stifling bus many years ago. Since that serendipitous day I have regularly used one or all three of those songs to unwind after a hard shift, or merely as a sleeping aide. I have fond memories of a house I used to live with a living room whose tall windows used to let the sunlight flood in as it headed back towards the horizon, and I would sit in its warm glow, feeling my eyelids getting heavier as I listened to those sublime moments from "Feels".
"Feels" revels in a childish mischievousness that as an adult I am overwhelmingly drawn to, if only to recapture my long lost youth for a moment, to remember a more innocent time, a time when I didn't realise how good I had it in my ignorance of all things around me and all things to come. If ever I am comatose with a ridiculous grin painted on my ashen face, please know that I am okay, frolicking with the Animal Collective, and DO NOT RESUSCITATE!
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- Feels by Animal Collective
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