Animal Collective: a primer

    After a long wait, Animal Collective is finally making a tour stop in Chicago at the Riviera Theatre this Thursday. The Baltimore collective was supposed to visit in March but had to pull out because of an illness in the band. Nevertheless, they’ll be bringing their eclectic show back to Chicago for the first time since the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival, performing a normal set at the Riv followed by a DJ set at Smart Bar.

    The band is coming off of 2012's Centipede Hz, and to make the tour behind the album that much more special, their stage setup has become more elaborate and colorful. Sure, AC's performances have always been known for overly psychedelic tones and fascinating light setups, but the new stage design, created by band member Avey Tare’s sister, exudes a beautiful florescence that engulfs the band members in fuzz and color – basically what listening to an Animal Collective record feels like. Their show has even been described rightly as a “multi-sensory experience.”

    But what songs can we expect them to perform to accompany the visual spectacle? AC has released nine albums, each one somewhat distinct from the others, touching on unconventional psychedelic pop with their most successful album Merriweather Post Pavilion to straight up experimental folk on earlier albums like Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished and Here Comes the Indian. Here are a few songs that will prepare you for the concert experience.

    "Who Could Win a Rabbit" from Sung Tongs (2004)

    There’s bound to be an acoustic breakdown at some point during the show, and this song would fulfill that requirement perfectly. Animal Collective began their career somewhat experimental, but ultimately changed direction to this unconventional yet simple psychedelic folk.

    "Fireworks" from Strawberry Jam (2007)

    Strawberry Jam showcased the band writing more structured songs and incorporating more layers of sound, something that has become a defining characteristic of Animal Collective in recent years. I can only imagine the grandiose, colorful video light show that would accompany “Fireworks” on their new stage set-up.

    "Brothersport" from Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

    Animal Collective broke through with Merriweather Post Pavilion, combining looping electronics and enormous melodies throughout the album. Tribal beats and features also made their way into several tracks, like “Brothersport,” that make for an interesting dance party. Seeing as this was their most popular release, the band is likely going to be playing a few songs from this album.

    "Honeycomb" from Honeycomb/Gotham 7" (2012)

    More recently, the band has returned to their psychedelic roots, but has managed to keep their electronic creativity. “Honeycomb” was released as a special 7-inch before the release of Centipede Hz and shows the band utilizing samples and crazy sound effects like in their early days, all the while keeping their songwriting creative and strangely poppy. Every band likes to throw in a B-side into their live show, and this song is most similar to their new album.

    "Applesauce" from Centipede Hz (2012)

    “Applesauce” starts with a noisy mess, but soon erupts into a piano-driven, rhythmically bouncy track that is just one of many frantic, aurally dense tracks on Centipede Hz. Out of all the songs on the new album (aside from single “Today’s Supernatural”), I could see this making it onto the setlist come Thursday night.


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