Animal Collective are on such a hot streak right now that the appearance of a vast army of player haters and naysayers is almost imminent. How can the band fend off such venomous leeches? By doing what the band has done for the past five years: constantly changing their sound while retaining their childhood sense of aloofness and wonder. The Collective certainly do this and more on Prospect Hummer, their collaboration with legendary, obscure English folk singer Vashti Bunyan. Instrumentally, Hummer is the meeting point of Sung Tongs' joyous fractured melodies and Young Prayer's rainstorm guitar strumming. Beginning with the lovely and haunting "It's You," Bunyan's voice ebbs and flows while the band trickles the sound in carefully after each line, seemingly afraid to cloud Bunyan's beautiful vocals. At the end of the song, the band becomes the yin to Bunyan's yang, adding harmonizing vocals and guitar while underscoring the song's dramatic finale. The only falter comes during the instrumental "Baleeh Sample." "Sample" seems like the Collective's attempt to recreate the atmospheric creepiness of their concert staple "Wastered" (from the split 10" with Black Dice), but it doesn't quite take root because of the unnatural spaceship effect that constantly buzzes in and out throughout the guitar strumming. Meanwhile, the other two tracks on the album explore that childhood sense of wonder and joy that has characterized the work of the Animal Collective. "Prospect Hummer" is a joyous acoustic skank that feels and sounds like a safari through a peaceful jungle. "I Remember Learning How to Dive" is a soon-to-be-classic song that bounces with a sense of elatedness while shivering with a sense of loss; it addresses both the innocence of childhood and the recognition of mortality. In the song, as well as on the rest of the album, Bunyan feels less like the focal point of the album and more like the fifth member of Animal Collective. Indeed, collaborations are usually never this seamless.
1. It's You
2. Prospect Hummer
3. Baleen Sample
4. I Remember Learning How to Dive