October 20, 2021

Animal Collective - "Prester John"

Animal Collective have announced their first studio album since 2016. The new record is called Time Skiffs and it's out in February 2022.

From 2004-2009, no one could touch Animal Collective's illustrious output. Releasing four groundbreaking albums in a row, plus some high quality EPs, indie music in the first decade of the new millennium was shaped by Animal Collective's unique sound. Their shift from freak-folk to electronic wunderkids was monumental and inspired countless bands and genres along the way. However, in the ten years since their opus Merriweather Post Pavilion, the group receded a bit. Now, after a couple of live albums and a lot of solo material, the band has announced their first new album in five years. The first single, "Prester John," isn't a gittery electronic jam, but rather something a bit more meditative that finds the group bringing back harmonies that helped elevate them in the decade prior. In fact, this is one of the first tracks in a while that sounds like a band and not four guys standing behind boards programming away at their sound. Panda Bear's drums sound like he's playing behind an actual kit and there are bits of guitars and keyboards that open up their world and share new territories we've yet to hear them explore. It's hard to guess where Animal Collective fit into the indie world these days. Earlier this year they played a set at Pitchfork Festival and barely received any coverage while new acts like Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers dominated the conversation. At this point, Animal Collective seem more like indie's elder statesmen and less so the genre-pushing innovators they once were. It's not an uncommon path and it's not to say the new album won't be good, but rather that they're no longer the ones who have the community waiting with bated breath. "Prester John" is the result of two songs written independently by Avey Tare and Panda Bear that we're woven together, but really it feels like classic Noah Lennox. His vocal richness sounds delightful here and for the first time in a while, we're treated to a more relaxed version of the band. There is a dreamy twinkle that permeates the song and gives it a floating feeling and is one of their most straight-forward songs in years. Maybe it's time and the natural aging process that has calmed things down, but regardless it's refreshing to hear this version of the band and it'll be intriguing to hear of the rest of the record follows this trend.

Time Skiffs is out February 4 via Domino.

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