We heard the message with Sung Tongs and again with Feels: Animal Collective are clever to most, genius to some. Eccentric and prolific, out came seven albums (one live) on top of solo projects in just seven years. Strawberry Jam's songs were conceived and played live while touring. The friendly vibe fills the album with party-pop that buzzes with energy on songs like “Winter Wonderland.”
Recorded in Arizona's desert with Scott Colburn (who also worked on Arcade Fire's Neon Bible), Strawberry Jam ups the 70s rock guitars and bubbly electro-pop to craft a whole fantasyland. There are dark moments, but like those of childhood, they are more scary than dangerous. Indeed, “Peacebone” starts Strawberry Jam off like a sputtering schoolboy, pretending to confuse his grandmother before offering a childhood fantasy of dinosaurs bubbling past the band's whole spectrum of electronic sounds.
Though they've already “crossed-over” in a sense, most dramatically with Sung Tongs, the wider accessibility of Strawberry Jam might help the band reach a still broader audience (i.e. what Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain did for Pavement), especially with the band on super-indie label Domino. Of course, Strawberry Jam still contains dissonant, percussive “jams,” but they tend to spiral out near the end of songs, thus falling somewhat within pop song standards.
When the party does slow during the tranced-out moments of “Chores,” Avey Tare cries with those full-throated vowels that get him in trouble with some folks, “I only want the time to do one thing that I like / I want to get so stoned and take a walk out in the drizzle.” Trance music about chilling out is as perfect as it gets: Panda Bear, Tare, et al are singing these songs more than ever for their crowds. Like all good things, Strawberry Jam won't come easily to you, but Animal Collective have never tried harder to help. Strawberry Jam is the rare album that seems sure to satisfy – except by miles-away Top-40 standards. No matter, Animal Collective have declared their indie-pop genius. Now have some fun.