Watersports Or Classic Sitcom: What Exactly Are Animal Collective Singing About?

18 February 2016 | 3:33 pm | Ross Clelland

"How can you take offence to a band that opens with a sample of dialogue from 'The Golden Girls'?"

Of course, the only new song you need to hear this week is that one where Tim Minchin sounds like The Whitlams on a particularly grumpy day discussing how privileged old men in silly hats can be complete arseholes. But you likely know about that already, so let’s move onto other ‘lighter’ moods of pop music…or not.

Like Hozier, who after offering up thoughtful tunes about racism and homophobia among other things, moves onto the many faceted horrors and aches of domestic violence. Cherry Wine (Island) is further observation of what makes a sweet guy turn so mean, and like Paul Kelly in the song I pinched that line from, manages the fine balance making something worthy while remembering it’s in the form a pop song. Adding to the chances of having it noticed and talked about – as it well should be – is having fellow Irishperson Saoirse Ronan - she of Grand Budapest Hotel, and currently Oscar-nominated for Brooklyn - in the clip as the person caught in the shitstorm. 

Our local-boy-still-making-good Flume is also observing a similar ballpark, with Never Be Like You (Future Classic) also centring on an at worst abusive, at best enabling, relationship. With Canadian singer and regular collaborator Kai providing the self-questioning voice as the visuals bend out of shape, our Harley is again making nothing less big, thumping, synthesised international music. With songs and videos like the above you can choose to look away, or just not listen. Please, if a hell is going down with someone you know in real life as is happening these works of art, don’t take that option of non-involvement. 

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Oh, enough darkness. Let us go with vocal harmonies of somewhere between The Beach Boys and a barbershop quartet, possibly on a range of hallucinogens. Allowing that certain of said Beach Boys have ingested a range of pharmaceuticals already. Oh Animal Collective, you jolly japesters. How can you take offence to a band that opens with a sample of dialogue from The Golden Girls? Let alone one with a member named Panda Bear. Golden Gal (Paw Tracks/Domino) is happy love in pastel colours dancing across your ear drums. Although some have suggested the song’s title refer to a predilection for what is called ‘water sports’ in some corners of the interwebs (hint: it’s nothing to do with wakeboarding). If under 18 perhaps don’t Google that term, he says - realising that’s exactly what many of you are doing even before I’ve finished writing this sentence.

Oh Canada, come and let some sunshine in. Black Mountain, self-confessed collectivist hippies, lovers of Pink Floydian views of universe. So, with Mothers Of The Sun (Jagjaguwar/Inertia) what can possibly go wrong? Over eight-and-a-half minutes, plenty. Chains, bloodied daggers, hooded monks. No, not a trailer for series six of Game Of Thrones. Well, certainly not with that perfectly silly right-angled twin-necked guitar anyway. It’s more Black Sabbath than White Stripes. Garish, overblown, but maybe with just a little tongue in its cheek. Thankfully.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Darren Middleton realises he’s fairly unlikely to ever have any promotional material appear without the brackets that read ‘(ex-Powderfinger)’ after his name. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, really. The brackets that come after the title of Favours (Footstomp) are a handy selling point of another sort, as they read ‘(featuring Missy Higgins)’, whose second voice amid the chatty twang of this speak of love not being reciprocated, but more shrugging the shoulders about that, rather than stalking the object of affection on Facebook. Dazza’s work is definitely veering toward the country here, but retains a certain Queensland chuckle in its tone. 

Also awaiting love’s reply, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever now describe what they do as ‘soft punk’. This translates as sounding a bit like something from the new wave from around 1979. Write Back (Ivy League) is built on an insistent clatter that is the sound of your fingers nervously tapping on the kitchen table as you wait for the Inbox icon to light up. Ah, romance in the age of the internet condensed into the timeless three minute popsong. And done well. Did he/she swipe left or right? These are the important questions of the times.

With more than enough jangle, and more than enough stripey shirts in the ‘band on the road’ video, Major Leagues have made the near-perfect summery indie pop tune for the ages. Better Off (Caroline) is just scuffed enough not to be considered as an ad jingle for a certain brand of carbonated beverage, but shiny enough to be better than most all of those tune on community radio that occasionally revel a little too much in their frayed edges. Tap foot, bob head, sing along, repeat.    

Conversely, from under his big hat, as a brass section blurts through much like it would in a song by The Band, and as he sings over a rattly honk-tonk piano much like it would in a song by The Band, Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes swing over a rustic landscape much like it would in a song by The Band. The Mountain (ABC Music/Universal) is all positivity in the struggle, references to ‘climbing’ ‘eagles’ and experiencing ‘the view’ while the upward track is followed. It’s all well put together and absolutely done with talent and sincerity, but could be from anywhere, and the affection for their obvious influences perhaps overawes anything of their own that might be present, and that’s a bit of a shame.