Following a successful record is always a tall order, let alone an album that has since been regarded as one of the best alternative albums of the past decade. Merriweather Post Pavilion, the eighth studio album by Animal Collective, took the indie music world by storm in 2009 and eventually garnered mainstream recognition. The band’s fanbase experienced exponential expansion, as the album offered up the most accessible tunes of the usually complex, abstract band’s career. Exactly how Animal Collective’s sound would progress after such a landmark achievement was the subject of much speculation over the past three years in anticipation of this release. Would the group continue along the path of accessibility and large hooks, or revert back to the more esoteric sound of their previous records?
In essence, Centipede Hz is simply unlike anything Animal Collective has released in its decade-plus career. As if to emphasize this notion, the album begins with a ten-minute assault on the senses in the form of two tracks, “Moonjock” and “Today’s Supernatural.” The recordings are simply overwhelming on first listen. Unabashedly busy and dense, the aural senses are overloaded with a high-energy, loud sound that is incomparable to any other in the world today. It jolts the listener into an entirely new, futuristic sonic atmosphere inhabited only by Animal Collective. Fortunately, the vocals of Avey Tare (Dave Portner) possess an innate ability to guide the listener through the whirlwind of sound to a conceivable hook. His impassioned, intense pleadings on “Today’s Supernatural” remain engrained in the audience’s head long after the last note of the song leaves the speakers.
Breathing room is given by way of the Panda Bear (Noah Lennox)-driven “Rosie Oh,” a Beach Boys-inspired jam that eases the tempo and intensity. Centipede Hz never fully reverts back to the density and furious pace of its first two tracks, but settles into a groove of sorts for the remainder of the album. The innovative, otherworldly sounds work particularly well on standouts “Monkey Riches,” “Pulleys,” and especially “Amanita,” arguably the record’s greatest highlight.
Due to the countless layers and multifarious nature of the music, it will indubitably take multiple, concerted listens in order to fully appreciate what the band has created with Centipede Hz. For those who only find enjoyment on Merriweather Post Pavilion in Animal Collective’s catalog, this latest album will almost certainly disappoint. Yet the listeners who enjoyed the challenging, abstract qualities of the band’s previous recordings will surely find Centipede Hz a rewarding experience if enough time is spent with it. Buried underneath the barrage of heavy, seemingly impenetrable sounds that pervade the record are those all-too-familiar hooks unique to Animal Collective. With the discovery of these hooks, one will not only be able to enjoy the sonic world that the band created here, but also the place of Centipede Hz in a body of work that will be debated about long after the band has played its last song. 9/10