Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #35 Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#35 Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Strawberry Jam, the eighth full-length album by Animal Collective, may be the first offering that isn’t trembling with stylistic schizophrenia. They’ve made a name for themselves – and what a lasting name it’s been – by ripping apart all sorts of genres with fervor, approaching an experimental sensibility with a wild bent. They went from noise to folk to electronic, and just about everywhere else, at a sprinter’s pace. Strawberry Jam, by contrast, is the deep breath at the end of the track.
Some criticized this album for not bringing anything new to the table, but what it lost in experimental ferocity it gained in stability. It anchors itself around "For Reverend Green" and "Fireworks," the two long-form ramblers in the middle of the CD. The former accelerates along the backbone of a scratching, nippy guitar line, exploding in a chorus of yelps and squeals, preaching – with unusual energy – the comforts of close friends: "Now I think it's alright we're together / Now I think that's a riot." The latter switches to a thin and skipping snare roll, accompanied by soft, almost-silly "ooh-oohs," emphasizing an escape from mundanity: "Then I start to feel tragic, people greet me, I'm polite / What's the day? / What’s you doing? / How's your mood? / How's that song?" The pairing of these two tracks seems to drive a running theme throughout the album: focus on what’s good and minimize the "tragic." This is humorously twisted on the jaunty, near-oblivious "Winter Wonder Land": "If you don’t believe in happiness / then you must be down ... if you don’t believe you’re dying then it doesn’t get you down."
It doesn’t all play off the ignorance = bliss equation. The thunderous "Cuckoo Cuckoo" and distorted vocals of "#1" hint at a sort of nagging emotional distress that humanizes the running theme on Strawberry Jam. But, in its consistency and balance, this has become one of Animal Collective’s most rational and insightful records, landing it at #35 in our Top 100 of the decade.
Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.