A Guide to Animal Collective, Panda Bear and Avey Tare

Posted by Billy Gil, January 9, 2015 05:00pm | Post a Comment

In celebration of the release of the new album by Animal Collective, we’ve put together this handy guide to see you through the myriad releases by the band and its individual members.

For the uninitiated, Baltimore-born Animal Collective have been one of the most consistently challenging and rewarding bands of the 2000s. Made up of Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox), Avey Tare (David Portner) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) (longtime member Josh Dibb aka Deakin is not on their newest release), Animal Collective have released 10 studio albums and many EPs, collaborations and one-offs. Meanwhile, Lennox and Portner have several releases each (both solo and, in Portner’s case, as a collaborator). Though their music has varied quite a bit from release to release, the band has drawn upon elements of folk, Afropop, avant-garde music, noise, hip hop and psychedelia for a sample and synth-heavy concoction that defies typical genre trappings.

Here’s a list of the band’s releases, in chronological order:


Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000)

Somewhat of a solo record by Avey Tare, with Lennox on drums (first released under the name Avey Tare and Panda Bear), Spirit actually better portrays the melodicism that would come to mark later Animal Collective releases than those that immediately followed, full of fluttering acoustic guitars and sparkling synths, with the occasional feedback drones and Portner’s shriek interrupting the reverie. Also notable for being the first thing released on the band’s Animal label, now known as Paw Tracks


animal collective danse manatee lp

Danse Manatee (2001)

With Portner’s childhood friend Weitz in tow, the second Animal Collective album was released under the name Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist. Danse Manatee found the band experimenting with space and extreme frequencies. Perhaps the most challenging of all the band’s releases.


Campfire Songs (2003)

With Dibb now in the band (and Geologist present to help record), the band recorded Campfire Songs’ five songs outdoors, in one take, straight to a minidisc. The surrounding ambience of crickets, birds and other sounds was recorded and mixed back into the album to achieve the “warm and inviting” feel the band sought. The loping acoustic guitars and droning harmonies of Campfire Songs contrasted sharply with some of AC’s more jagged material, setting the stage for future releases like Sung Tongs.


Here Comes the Indian (2003)

The band’s first album officially as a foursome ping pongs between manic energy and ambient drones, with gnarled electric guitar, drums pitter pattering like insects and strange, squirting sounds all around. The album was recorded live in three days, and then certain sounds were processed and loops were added until Here Comes the Indian arrived in all its ragged glory. Though still raw by later standards, the album garnered the band their biggest attention in the blogosphere thus far and spawned some mindblowing moments like early highlight “Slippi,” hinting at the band’s later genius.


Sung Tongs (2004)

Recorded by just Avey Tare and Panda Bear, Sung Tongs wrangled the band’s wild ideas into more digestible songs—though “Who Could Win a Rabbit” is still plenty screwed up, however catchy it may be. It placed emphasis on the duo’s primitivist vocals and trance-inducing harmonies while still for plenty of space to permeate through. Like Campfire SongsSung Tongs feels mystical and alluring, but its memorable melodies helped take the band from an exciting, experimental act to a band capable of brilliant, innovative songwriting. “Winter’s Love” gets us every time. 


Feels (2005)

Recorded by all four members, with some outside contributions (notably mum’s Kristin/Doctess on piano, Portner’s one-time wife and collaborator), Feels took on a notably poppier tone than previous releases, though still askew by way of faintly out-of-tune guitars and pianos, unusual instrumentation and balancing drone with exuberant vocals. The nine-song Feels is one of their most consistent and consistently engaging albums, featuring the John Lennon-inspired “Grass” and galloping highlight “The Purple Bottle.”


Strawberry Jam (2007)

The band’s first album for Domino found them developing the more pop-oriented sound of Feels even further into brightly-lit environs. Features the acid-fried indie hit “Peacebone.”


Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Animal Collective’s eighth album is nothing short of a masterpiece. The band managed to sneak their warped pop sensibilities into a lush, interlocking tapestry inspired by the likes of Loveless and Pet Sounds. From more serene moments like “In the Flowers” and “Bluish” to tunes that bounce around with infectious spirit like “Summertime Clothes” and “Brother Sport,” there isn’t a missed note on Merriweather. It also possesses perhaps their most beloved song, the heartfelt “My Girls.”


Centipede Hz (2012)

The most recent Animal Collective album found the band trading their summertime clothes for experimental garb once again. Centipede is unapologetically heady, but there are tons of interesting ideas and tunes floating around in it if you’re willing to take the plunge.


Animal Collective
Painting With (2016)

Animal Collective’s 10th studio album brims with life and color. It’s an explosion of sound, as modular synths, live percussion and the trio’s quick bursts of melodic vocals dance and blur together like a melting rainbow. Removing a lot of the reverb from previous releases allows the band’s glorious, Beach Boys-esque harmonies to stand out on tracks like the electro-fried, Afro-pop-inspired “The Burglars.” Songs like “Hocus Pocus” and “Spilling Guts” return the hopscotching vocal effects of Panda Bear’s most recent album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, while Avey Tare’s leads come through with life-affirming clarity on songs like “Golden Gal.” There’s a clearer focus on directness here, too, on songs like first single “FloriDada,” an ultimately irresistible pop song about the Sunshine State that comes off like Animal Collective’s surrealist take on “Kokomo.” Occasionally, as on that song and the “Golden Girls”-sampling “Golden Gal,” things can get a little silly. But it also finds the band with renewed focus. As usual, AC evoke the feeling of staring at the desert sky without a care in the world.


Other Notable Releases:

Hollinndagain (2002)

A live album released between their second and third album captured the capricious nature of their early live shows, full of heaving vocals and chaotic, clanging percussion. This is also the only place you can get these eight songs.


Prospect Hummer (2005)

Just reissued, this four-song EP features tracks left off of Animal Collective's celebrated Sung Tongs release re-recorded with legendary English singer Vashti Bunyan. The EP would mark the first time the band would work with Bunyan before appearing on her comeback album Lookaftering, her first in 30 years.


Water Curses (2008)

This handful of tracks recorded during the Strawberry Jam sessions have the same pop-songs-filtered-through-a-black-hole feel as that album. “Water Curses” is a terrific AC single, but “Street Flash” is a spare, gorgeous highlight that shouldn’t be skipped.


Fall Be Kind (2009)

Released the same year as the superb Merriweather Post PavillionFall Be Kind could’ve been a tossed-off set of outtakes. Instead, it stands as one of the stronger releases in the band’s catalog, full of beautiful, airy melodies that waft by and slowly envelop you. Though still plenty experimental and leaning toward ambient, it’s the prettiest the band ever let themselves get.


Monkey Been to Burntown (2013)

Remixes of the Centipede Hz track "Monkey Riches," with a standout from Seattle experimental hip hop group Shabazz Palaces.


Panda Bear:

Panda Bear (1998)

The first album released under the greater Animal Collective umbrella, these are mostly laptop/acoustic sketches Lennox recorded in his teens. It’s pretty fascinating to hear how many ideas are presented here that would get fleshed out later in the band’s career—the rolling acoustic drones, slightly out-of-time percussive elements, murky electronics and meditative vocals.



Young Prayer (2004)

Young Prayer is aptly titled. Its layered vocals and glimmering acoustics roll around through these nameless tracks and wash over you like healing waters.



Person Pitch (2007)

Person Pitch is the most ambitious thing Panda Bear has ever released, building an ornate sand castle of summery, Beach Boys-inspired tunes that stretch to epic proportions upon extended samples and Lennox’s remarkable voice, layered into infinity. Stands as strong as anything in the Animal Collective catalog.


Tomboy (2011)

Whereas Person Pitch’s seven songs each occupied their own luxurious sound world, Tomboy on the surface appeared to be more of a pop album, judging by its more traditional song lengths. But Tomboy proved just as entrancing as other Panda Bear releases as its songs flow into one another like waves, carried by Lennox’s choral vocals and surf-inspired melodies.


Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (2015)

The new album by Panda Bear is perhaps his most accessible yet. This is not to say the music isn’t as strange and unique as anything he’s done. “Boys Latin’s” brilliant vocal pastiche gets stuck in your head but keeps your mind swimming. “Crossword” is heartfelt and gorgeous, along the lines of Animal Collective’s “My Girls.” “Come to Your Senses” swirls with slithering, shaking sounds, but percolating guitars and synths carry strong melodies to take you through it. “Principe Real” is like Wonderland funk, bouncing on handclaps and cartoonish organs. And “Tropic of Cancer” is a Beach Boys-inspired oceanic ode that crests on beautiful harp and digital whispers. While Panda Bear’s work has always been inspiring, Grim Reaper is his most confident release to date.


Avey Tare:

Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan – Pullhair Rubye (2007)

This was released with the not-so-great idea of running the entire album backwards. But reversing the music reveals a pretty little indie folk record recorded by Portner with his then-wife, simpler and rawer than anything else in Portner’s catalog, but lovely nonetheless.



Down There (2010)

Down There is a darker affair than other Portner material, recorded while the artist was admittedly “bummed out.” But Down There still bubbles with Portner’s unmistakable effervescence, as tracks like “3 Umbrellas” possess the vocal acrobatics Portner is known for while songs like “Cemeteries” finds him engaging in mournful, watery elegies. A great album for commiseration and feeling like you'll get through the shitty times.



Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Enter the Slasher House (2014)

Portner formed a new band with ex-Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman and released a debut that skews closer to more traditional indie-rock, but with plenty of Portner’s trademark tics. Standouts include the tribal, Paul Simon-vibing “Blind Babe,” dancey “Little Fang” and “The Outlaw,” which makes uses Deradoorian’s vocal shading to powerful effect.

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Animal Collective (14), Panda Bear (11), Avey Tare (3), Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks (3), Guide (1)