Animal Collective SUCKS

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”.

Official music video: Animal Collective in all their suckiness

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.

Dirty Projectors: the only cool thing in the video is the llama

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.


matt wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 6:32 AM PST:

I don’t read pitchfork, or any music critique publication, but I do like some of the AC tracks I’ve heard. And I can’t really say DP (or any of these bands) sucks, because, well, I’ve heard way worse haha.

They might not be the most talented, but they’ve probably dedicated their lives to their art and you have to give them some credit, even if sycophantic hipsters casually nod their head to “My Girls” for the wrong reasons.

Bill wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 10:13 AM PST:

Yeah, Seconded. The funniest thing is seeing Animal Collective live on late night shows. Its so electronic that most of the band member shave very little to do when the music is playing other than try to look cool.

mathewaugustus wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 10:23 AM PST:

I dislike those bands/albums as well but your tastes will throw people off. You don’t seem to put any emphasis on the messages that the artists give with their music, or maybe analyze the larger context of the music. That’s a big reason why these bands get time among the hipsters, because they are more concerned with such things. Not necessarily because they are mindless sheep (true hipsters are actually pretty clever i’ve noticed 😛 ). I am (very) concerned with that stuff as well, I just don’t appreciate/respect that kind of post-modern claptrap. I think it’s important to be able to just turn that part of the brain off and just listen to the music though. There is some questionable mainstream pop music I like as well, and yeah in general put the music itself in the place of top importance.

Also, have you heard David Byrne + Brian Eno – “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”? I’m curious to hear what you think of it.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 3:36 PM PST:

>analyze the larger context of the music.

I see no larger context on that music. It’s just some dead simple samples and arrangements that put together one after another even if they have nothing in common melodically, and they call it a day 6 minutes after. That’s music that goes nowhere, it offers no reward or “high” to the listener.

>That’s a big reason why these bands get time among the hipsters, because they are more concerned with such things.

Not really. If you read Wikipedia’s “hipster” definition, they don’t have ANY philosophy that binds them. They are not like hippies or punks. Most hipsters are simply metrosexuals who want to be and look different for the sake of being and looking different.

And of course, this is sign of the times. Back in the ’60s, where people were more active politically, their music reflected that via rock. Today’s television-grown hipsters just want to be and look different. They are not bound by a specific common philosophy about the world or how to make it better. Even the EMO kids are less redundant than the hipsters because at least they have something in common between them. Hipsters just have fashion, and whatever makes them “different” than the pack.

“Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” is ok I guess. Not my cup of tea, but way more listenable than Dirty Projectors.

ryan wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 5:37 PM PST:

Hey, thanks for the shoutout to my review here! Yours was a great diatribe against the bands, very interesting and I really enjoyed it. I can’t say anything against Dirty Projectors (cos I haven’t listened to them yet) and Grizzly Bear I kinda like. However, you got it right with the xx as well. Their song “Infinity” sounds like they ripped off Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games,” if anyone knows that 90’s song but me…

anyway, really awesome post!

Pat wrote on December 29th, 2009 at 10:19 PM PST:

Animal Collective is my favorite band, and has been for many years. I understand how you could hate them, totally. “Fireworks,” which you posted as an example of how bad they are, is my favorite song. Ha.

Soulbender wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 11:51 AM PST:

There’s at least one difference to Iron Maiden though; Iraon Maiden was actually good.

mathewaugustus wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 12:07 PM PST:

I do give them more slack because I have a few hipster friends…but yeah there certainly is more meaning behind this music than you give credit for. It’s a whole other way of thinking about music, a different set of needs to be fulfilled. And you’ll never get anywhere trying to argue the flaws in composition or whatever because there is no standard of what good music is. There are just different philosophies, different memes/trends that arise. This is what I’m talking about with larger contexts.

ETHWHT took some time to grow on me but I love it now.

Jani wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 1:47 PM PST:

Eugenia, having read your previous rants it is no surprise that you like more “commercial” music (with all the catchy melodies and hooks and whatnot) than the bands you now talk about. I wasn’t really familiar with either AC or DP before but I just checked them out and I have to say that, well, I probably wouldn’t buy their albums. BUT I certainly can understand that some people like them – in fact DP seems like something I might listen to voluntarily – and certainly their music is something far more original than the usual commercial shit thats filling the radio waves these days. I might even go as far as calling ACs and DPs music art. At least they’ve put some effort to it, tried to do something different. And really, for that reason alone I wouldn’t say they suck.

Oh well, back to listening my Curve records. “Open Day at Hate Fest” seems somehow appropriate. 🙂

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 1:58 PM PST:

Doing things different is not always good. THERE IS a standard of what’s good music: it’s what the majority of people like to hear. That is, well understood melodies and composition, and not random noise.

Manel wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 2:23 PM PST:

There is NO standard of what’s good music.
And yes! theres is a standard of what’s good music for you. The problem is that having an standard in your head (musically speaking of course) limits you. Try to listen music without hoping pleasant melodies or compositions that makes you comfortable.
Try to listen real artists, i don’t know… for example: Frank Zappa! no really modern music but really a MUSICIAN. Always trying to find new sounds, new ways of expression in music.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 2:49 PM PST:

But, I do! That’s why I listen to Cloud Cult. That’s why I got into folk this year (never had before). But the music DP and AC do, for the most part, is noise. It’s not “music”.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 30th, 2009 at 6:55 PM PST:

Ok, let me explain why the whole thing bothers me.

“Experimental” comes from word “experiment”. Experiments are NOT meant to be for consumers. They are meant to be just that: closed-door experiments, that will hopefully LEAD to a consumer application. I see experimental music exactly the same way. I see it as RESEARCH for future POPULAR music.

Many bands experiment in the beginning of their careers to find their sound, and that’s cool. But eventually, when they’ve found their sound, they make consumer products (e.g. the last two Blitzen Trapper albums compared to their two first ones).

Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors never came out of this phase though, even if they’re in the business for 10 years now. They were experimental, and continue to be that. So their noise, continues to be noise, instead of having found new ways to incorporate their findings into a sound that the average consumer can understand and be happy about.

See, if you start replying now that “artistic expression should not be bound by consumer’s needs”, I’ll tell you that you’re an elitist. If artistic expression is what these guys are after, then their music would be FREE and would just ask for donations. But it’s not free, they charge for it full commercial prices, so their art is actually a PRODUCT.

And I do NOT accept, not for one moment, that music has to be “hard” and that has to require repeated listens “to get it” in order to be “good”. That’s bullshit.

And yes, I feel the same way about a lot of modern art. Not just about music.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 31st, 2009 at 5:49 PM PST:

Haha, check out the reviews from 3 old people. They’re reviewing Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors (on the second halves of the two linked videos).

Andy wrote on January 1st, 2010 at 9:52 AM PST:

There is IHMO no sense in a discussing music tastes or trying to analyze the quality of music. It’s just taste, you can’t measure this kind of stuff. it’s beyond logic.

Anyway, listen to you favourite music and all is good. There will always be people who will listen to what is supposed to be “hip”. There will always bands or music-styles that get hyped by whatever cause.

And btw, Happy new year!

Jake wrote on January 1st, 2010 at 11:28 AM PST:

Yes, your right, but…
Lory the dwarf, mthe music was horrible if you could call it music….

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 1st, 2010 at 2:09 PM PST:

>Lory the dwarf, the music was horrible if you could call it music….

I actually liked the Lory the Dwarf music score. It was eerie and atmospheric and the video went very well together.

jake wrote on January 2nd, 2010 at 6:59 AM PST:

Yeah, everyone got it’s own taste^^

Ryan V. wrote on January 2nd, 2010 at 11:11 AM PST:

I’m not really the kind of person who follows the music blogs, the pitchforks, and what not, but I do subscribe to a new music podcast, and when “Stillness is the Move” came on, I was caught by it. Maybe it has no good reason to be catchy, but I still find myself singing it, or getting it stuck in my head.

Heck, a gal mentioned it at a party and we both sang it together. So it’s catchy for some people I guess.

Able Green wrote on January 2nd, 2010 at 6:23 PM PST:

Now I know why you rant, you’re too mediocre to do anything else.

You have the creative talents of a pus filled pimple.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 2nd, 2010 at 7:58 PM PST:

At least I refrain from “creating” monsters like DP do. You’re welcome.

Vast Majority wrote on January 4th, 2010 at 12:50 AM PST:

I don’t consider Animal Collective an “experimental” band. To me they are a “Pop” band with a gimmick. Unfortunately (to me) the gimmick is poorly executed. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel they have potential and some day they may get it right. As it stands, I still check in on them and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Disclaimer: Dear reader, the above statement was a personal view and has NO bearing on your opinion.

Daniel wrote on January 7th, 2010 at 4:09 PM PST:

I love Animal Collective. I’m a mathematician and definitely not a hipster. It didn’t take me multiple listens to like the AC albums I’ve heard though they did sound even better than they first did upon subsequent listens. I think one of the reasons I like AC so much is that their songs keep evolving but still retain enough connection to cohere as individual songs. And their music really breaks out of the verse chorus verse structure that seems to appear in every song ever. It’s foolish to say that Animal Collective’s music doesn’t have a structure; it definitely does — it’s just a complex and abstract structure. If you don’t like that, whatever. Just keep in mind that other people do.

Are you joking about Merriweather Post Pavilion not being accessible? It’s basically a pop album! So they deviate from typical pop by presenting two or three segments per song that progress from one another in unexpected ways, but almost all of the album’s songs have strong hooks and choruses. What’s random or even complex about this album? If you’re having trouble listening to it, I wouldn’t blame the album because it’s pretty straightforward.

If you don’t like disjoint or complex music, why don’t you just rant about that rather than singling out AC? Others aren’t so narrowminded in their preferences. I see no reason why music should be confined into fitting any particular mold. It’s like telling artists they should only paint certain kinds of pictures. Absurd.

And isn’t all music experimental? Developing songs is a creative act… Or are you saying that we should start from existing music and modify it a bit to get new stuff? Well I’ve got news for you: they probably already do that to create the music you listen to. Your rant is puerile.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 7th, 2010 at 5:06 PM PST:

>And their music really breaks out of the verse chorus verse structure that seems to appear in every song ever.

That’s not what bothers me. In fact, I welcome that. But I want it to be done elegantly. Like Cloud Cult do it.

>it’s just a complex and abstract structure.

Well, I don’t see it this way. I see it as noise. Non-harmonious, not rhythmic noise.

>all of the album’s songs have strong hooks and choruses.

Except MyGirls and SummerTimeClothes, no they don’t. I see absolutely nothing else in there that has a “strong hook”. It doesn’t hook me up, not in the slightest. I can not imagine singing or humming these “hooks” in my shower, not even in a million years. They are unsingable and unmelodic. MyGirls and SummerTimeClothes ARE hookable because these two songs in the album are the ONLY ones that are based on a rock-style rhythm. And oh, the surprise, these two songs are the most sold songs in the whole album on iTunes! The rest of the album is jazzy, meaning, there’s no clear beat, and that’s just a major turn off.

>why don’t you just rant about that rather than singling out AC?

Because that album was voted by far too many as best album of the year. So it’s normal to get the slack. Also, read my reply to this article, linked at the bottom of this article.

Comments are closed as this blog post is now archived.

Lines, paragraphs break automatically. HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The URI to TrackBack this blog entry is this. And here is the RSS 2.0 for comments on this post.