Animal Collective Tangerine Reef

[Domino; 2018]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: eco-psych, enviro-pop, weird ocean
Others: Panda Bear, Avey Tare, SpongeBob SquarePants

They were the greatest psych-pop band in the world until they weren’t. You know, back in the Merriweather Post Pavilion days, when Obama was in office and love was in the air. But then something shocking happened: social media became a way of life, and we all became narcissistic and bent on beautifying our cyberspace. Amidst all of that, a bunch of non-guitar-based genres gained prominence in the 2010s. Meanwhile, Animal Collective landed safe on a shore of financial stability and fame, just as the kiddos were throwing away their guitars and replacing them for DAWs. We didn’t realize that Animal Collective had swam out to an island and were impossibly alone and trapped in their musicality, until it was too late. They were stuck out there.


Now this: making music for a film about a coral reef that is also a vessel for climate awareness. Collaborating with Coral Morphologic. 2018 International Year of the Reef. Trump in Office. And Avey Tare, swimming through a cloak of seawater and singing to the reef down below, with that style that we know: like he’s perpetually in the summer, at the end of the day, outside, looking up at some trees, with the same tiredness that kids have when they are wrenched from a nap. You know, that childhood vibe. Like as if he spent half of it as a tadpole or a seahorse. That’s one of the reasons why we love Animal Collective: it’s as if they’re still kindergarteners experimenting with kaleidoscopic visuals while playing with instruments as if those instruments were seesaws, merry-go-rounds, swing sets, slides, chin-up bars, sandboxes, trapeze rings, and mazes. We like it when they freak out, because it reminds us of how much of life should be experienced untamed.

Since half of experiencing Tangerine Reef comes from experiencing the visuals it accompanies, it’s hard for me to really vibe with this album as a complete thing. Really it feels less than that, like a side table, a bed frame, or a pierced hole in an ear with no earring in it. Sure, maybe you’ll be reminded once again of the planet’s fragility. Sure, you’ll be reminded once again of Trump’s denial of said fragility. And yes, Avey Tare’s lyrics, as always, are unburdened by the need to demonstrate knowledge in a way that is quantifiable or provable. But honestly, will we the millenials, upon listening, give a fuck about all of this? Will anyone, for that matter? It’s cool to be in the world by being in the protest by being in awareness of how the reef’s breathing quivers with each wave-pull. No doubt about that. But at the same time, Tangerine Reef is more like the sound of pretending to experience something profound. It’s a lull, a moonlit lull on the banks of the ocean in an off-moment, star-lit and discrete. It feels as if led astray. As if it were a fake ointment. Or adding emptiness to emptiness, secretly.

Yet, accompanying the film made by Coral Morphologic, it makes way more sense. Check it out below:

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