One way you can tell a band is working at a high level is by the material it leaves off an album. Such is the case with the first three songs on Animal Collective’s Water Curses EP. The tunes are outtakes from the sessions that produced last year’s Strawberry Jam. Other bands would kill to have a surplus of songs this good. That “Water Curses,” “Street Flash,” and “Cobwebs” were apparently deemed by the band to be not worthy of inclusion on Strawberry Jam reinforces how great that record was.
The opening title track starts with some ominous noises before settling into a breezy tropical vibe, complete with steel drum. It’s a quick roller-coaster ride of a song, with Avey Tare at the helm on vocals, claiming: “I don’t think I know exactly what I’m doing.” Avey Tare’s voice is even more prominent on the next two songs, as it was throughout most of Strawberry Jam. “Street Flash” has a gorgeous, ambient, Eno-esque feel to it, except for a middle section in which Avey Tare goes into primal scream mode. And “Cobwebs” is built around noise samples like the sound of an airplane zooming in the sky and the type of funky, electronic beat Animal Collective is so good at laying down.
Closer “Seal Eyeing” comes from time the band logged at Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room studio. With its name, underwater feel, and pretty piano chords, it sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a day at the aquarium. Like the other songs here and pretty much everything in the Animal Collective canon, it’s a deft blend of childlike wonder and skillful sonic structuring.