“Derek,” The closing track on Animal Collective’s superb 2007 release Strawberry Jam, was alternately interpreted as referring to either a dog or a baby. Unless they’ve got a particularly cruel parental streak, this new BBC captured track isn’t so ambiguous. Avey Tare’s sings a sweet love song to his puppy, and never slips into the shrieking ecstatics that have become his trademark. The band’s music has always been sort of sunny and empathic in its own skewed way, but here, with a ode to a departed four legged pal, they exude as much human relatability as they ever have. The backdrop seems tranquil and warm too, closer to the tones of Panda Bear’s Person Pitch than the choppy loops of Jam. Jingling sleigh bells get more weight than creeping electronics.
At around the five minute mark, the touching sweetness begins to morph into the significantly more warped “Hey Light.” [more:]In come the throbbing loops and garbled vocals you may or may not have been missing. Clicking drumstick rhythm is buried by choppy synth patterns that quickly grow more and more frantic. Tare stretches his vocal delivery to the point of being incomprehensible. Just as the momentum appears to normalize, the track cuts off. It’s a strange epilogue for the sentimental offering that preceded it. Perhaps a quick assurance that their evolution into more emotionally direct pop forms won’t come at the expense of their wild-eyed sonic experiments?