It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs (2004)
From 2004 to 2009, Animal Collective went on one of the most impressive creative runs in modern rock history. The band dropped four classic albums during that five-year stretch—Sung Tongs in 2004, Feels in 2005, Strawberry Jam in 2007 and Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009—and each one had its own fun, unique personality.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Sung Tongs. It’s bizarre, yet loveable; quiet, yet completely chaotic at times. Of all the music I’ve ever listened to over the years, I don’t know that anything sounds quite like what Animal Collective was doing at this stage of their career.
(And, yes, Sung Tongs is technically the work of just two members of Animal Collective, Avey Tare and Panda Bear, but it was released under the A.C. moniker, so I consider it an official part of the band’s discography.)
Sung Tongs was recorded on mostly acoustic guitars and recorded on an old Tascam 48. It’s raw, free and experimental, but at times, it sounds like some of the the most relaxing, traditional folk music you’ve ever heard.
The album kicks off with two of its strongest tracks, the mesmerizing “Leaf House” and “Who Could Win a Rabbit,” which sounds a bit like listening to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on acid. Spanish bands use all the echo, Panda Bear sings on “Who Could Win a Rabbit.” Persian kitties better stay out of the train/ Glad you brought your food on/ Eat it like it’s going to get away. Does any of that actually make any sense? Well, no, but the song is still catchy, loose, and fun. Just try and listen without smiling, tapping your foot or at least nodding your head a bit; I bet you can’t!
Both of those songs are fairly bonkers, so what do the guys follow them up with? “The Softest Voice,” of course, a slow, serene number that goes on for more than 6 minutes. Sung Tongs is a bit of a rollercoaster ride in that way; insane one minute, but blissful the very next.
The one song on this album I always go back to is also the one my wife seem to hate the most whenever she hears it: closing track “Whaddit I Done,” which finds the band singing through heavy wah-wah effects that make most the lyrics impossible to understand and more than a little disorienting. If that makes the song sound a bit unappealing—well, that’s because it is, really. But once you accept the experiment and settle in, you find that there’s a truly beautiful song right there in front of you.
I could say more about this album, but it’s really one that just needs to be heard to be understood. So check it out, OK? Or if you’re already familiar, maybe give it another listen. I do think it’s an album that reveals different things to the listener over time.
I haven’t necessarily loved either of the two albums Animal Collective has released since Merriweather Post Pavilion came out in 2009, but we’ll always have that five-year fun when it seemed like they could do no wrong.
Listen to all of Sung Tongs below, thanks to the almighty Spotify machine …