Animal Collective are a highly-experimental electro-rock band from Baltimore. This year, they made the No1 (or the top-5) on most music blog lists for “album of the year”. Online critics seem to love them, and they are the de-facto hipster band. Whatever Iron Maiden were for the metal-heads in the ’80s, Animal Collective are today for the hipster sub-[non]culture. This band has fanatics, not fans.
There is a place for experimental music in the world. But having blogs and magazines putting that kind of music in front of other, actually accessible music is beyond me. The AC music is nonsensical, random, songs never really develop, there are no hooks whatsoever, no real melodies, it’s unstructured, lyrics are difficult to understand, and it overall sounds like some kids are playing with their Casio keyboards they got as Christmas presents. Worst of all, blogs try to present AC as something they’re not: accessible.
In many ways, the whole situation reminds me of the Gentoo Linux sub-culture a few years ago: they will go around telling everyone how great Linux is, and especially how great Gentoo Linux is. And when someone would call them out for their elitist point of view, suggesting people move to an OS that simply is impossible to workaround properly, they’d attack you and tell you what a pedestrian PC user you are. Same with AC, if you tell these brainless hipsters that the bulk of AC’s music sucks, they’d tell you that “you don’t know music”, or that “you’re old”.
Having said that, I do like a few of their songs. “Grass” has 4 stars in my iTunes library, and “My Girls” & “Summertime Clothes” have 3. But all the rest ranges from 1/5 to 2/5, meaning “terrible”. The bulk of their music is simply un-listenable, no matter how many times I listened to it. I did try to get into it because I thought I was actually missing something. But I don’t think I’m missing anything. It’s just annoying noise, from a band that the idiots at Pitchfork (both the editors and their readers) have made-up and idolized. Apparently, there are a lot of other people online who have expressed the same dismay as I have: the best write-up I found is this one, and here are a few more: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Under the exact same rejecting umbrella I also put the Dirty Projectors (DP), and Grizzly Bear (GB). In fact, I hate Dirty Projectors even more than Animal Collective, but at least they’re not making No1 on all these lists (they do make top-10 though), and AC & GB have managed to write a few good songs. Dirty Projectors have NONE. The XX are bullshitting us too this year with the same bass riff on all their songs.
I have to admit that I bought Fever Ray’s album after reading about it at Pitchfork. I DID NOT like the music much after I previewed it on iTunes, but what makes the music bearable are her music videos which are way better than the music, but thankfully they go well together. But listening to her music alone I feel that I wasted $10. Anyways, still better than AC, GB, or DP.
Make no mistake, I like experimental bands. I like Cloud Cult, HEALTH and a few more. What I don’t like is “music” that I just can’t hold on to. I don’t like random shit. I have to have a point where the track grabs me and doesn’t change out of the blue in a state that I don’t recognize it anymore. Music for me is something that makes me feel good, that makes me feel high without having to take drugs. Unfortunately, according to some people online, in order to appreciate AC’s music you have to TAKE drugs, not the other way around. See, there’s a difference between pushing the envelope on existing conventions, and tearing down all conventions and sounding like the music was written by a non-human alien creature that has a completely different understanding of music or culture. And honestly, I don’t think that AC’s Baltimore is that different.
For me, the best album of the year was Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero’s “Up from Below”. But I like stuff like Lady Gaga too. And of course, Blitzen Trapper. And Phoenix. Maylene & The Sons of Disaster. And why not, P!nk. In other words, I like everything from rock, to hard rock, to alt, to folk, and to mainstream pop. And good experimental stuff too. Just not too disconnected stuff that sound like I would be able to write myself in just under an hour by using a fucking Macbook.
In conclusion, I think people just take music magazines’ word too seriously and don’t think for themselves. I’m a stubborn person, and I don’t trust others easily. I definitely don’t trust Pitchfork, which seems to have its own agenda (but that’s another matter).
Just think for yourselves.
Update: An analysis of why I don’t like AnCo, DP, and GB. Explains a few things about my likes and dislikes.
Update 2: After a year, I’m more warmed up to Animal Collective, but I still can’t stomach Dirty Projectors.