Animal Collective 

Fall Be Kind EP

Despite the clamor surrounding the disc, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion isn't the best album of the year. It's not even the most rewarding release from the Baltimore-based group's catalog, as it took Strawberry Jam's almost complete reliance on electronics and leaned on them more heavily.

The Fall Be Kind EP isn't fully detached from this trajectory. None of the five songs is more or less electronic then past efforts, but as a whole they couldn't fit seamlessly onto Merriweather Post Pavilion or Strawberry Jam. If obsession with this group has grabbed hold of you, however, this is essential listening.

Gone, for the most part, are the breezy sing-alongs. After three minutes, "What Would I Want? Sky" briefly gets into that territory, although the song is more tied to the electronic whirring in the background than anything else. The song is the only vestige of Animal Collective's past, even as "On a Highway" retains the obtuse Beach Boys reverence in its commonplace lyrics. These divergent tendencies aren't good or bad, just a further exploration of the electronics that Animal Collective has become so attached to. For latecomers to the New Age hippie party that was Animal Collective's last two albums, Fall Be Kind will be nothing short of agreeable. But those listeners who decry the ensemble's slide into knob twirling should toss on 2005's Feels. (Domino)

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