Thursday, November 26, 2009

#35. 'I wear a coat of feelings and they are loud'

Animal Collective "The Purple Bottle"

Is it odd that I'll say without much reservation that I hate love songs yet songs about crushes generally rank highly in my estimation? Sure, saying 'I hate love songs' is horribly general and probably not all that true, but songs that seem to rub the whole love thing in the listener's face just piss me off, while songs that take a step back and go to the root of it all into the initial infatuation and longing that precedes any sort of love affair have the exact opposite effect. It could be that the crush phase just lends itself more readily to great pop songs, especially if the artist in question takes the time to fully involve themselves in the full on joy and internal exuberance that marks a crush and how that rubs against the nervousness and doubt that accompany them at first. It's a hard mix to pull off, which might explain why there are so many less crush songs than there are full out love songs, but the few times that it's done and done well it all but guarantees itself a spot in my heart.

Essentially, that's why "The Purple Bottle" is here. I can't think of a a purer distillation of the dueling joy and nerves that accompany a hard crush that also manages to be extremely catchy and instrumentally interesting at the same time. While Avey Tare is exuberantly extolling the feelings he has for the object of his infatuation the band is laying down an equally exuberant and relentless track that matches him at every turn. The drums rumble, the guitars are sparse and sparkly-sounding, the keyboards are light and airy and the whole enterprise seems to be straining to contain the sheer jy that everyone is projecting onto the track. Keeping in mind that his is the same crew that went from shimmery avant rock on their 2000 debut Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished to a sort of aimless meandering through acoustic vignettes a merre four years later on Sung Tongs, a group who flirted with unreserved outbursts of emotion before (I'm thinking the sudden 'YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!' at the end of "April and the Phantom" mostly) but seemed more comfortable the more laid back they were. The sonic evolution that they underwent while making Feels was astonishing if only because it showed that tehy really could do pretty much anything and do it well. If you'd told me in 2003 when I was falling hard for Here Comes the Indian that a mere two years later the same band would be making this type of thing I'd have probably laughed in your face, but there we were and damn was it glorious.

It's also worth noting that for once the band's lyrics don't sound like an afterthought. Even if the song's main goal was to embody the exuberance of a crush, Tare's lyrics do al ot of the work in that department. He's clearly over the moon at all times, repeating words til they lose meaning, earing his heart and his nervousness on his sleeve and pretty much acting like a teenager who just saw the girl he's gonna marry and can't wait to tell the world about all the thoughts in his head. When the song moves into that last section and Tare goes on about his 'crush high' it's probably the single most joyous moment in music this decade, and that specific moment has plenty of competition within the song itself if not from any other song in particular. All through its near 7-minute run time - and once again, that seemingly excessive time for a single is all earned - the band and Tare in particular just dive headfirst into the central idea of the song and do everything they can to embody it. The sortof dedication they show to such a basic premise pays off so well that it surpasses all of their other singles, no small feat considering that we're talking about stuff like "Grass" and "Fireworks", two songs that would be top 50 contenders in their own right if not for "The Purple Bottle"'s supremacy in their discography.

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