How an enchanting new album leads Animal Collective to Columbia Friday

Some bands, and the culture which grows up around them, seem intimidating to the uninitiated. Often through no real fault of the musicians themselves.

Case in point: Anyone who failed to take hold of Animal Collective by 2009, when the Maryland band broke through with its album “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” might assume they missed their chance.

Maintaining an oddball image, feeling the love from art-rock crowds and featuring members called by monikers like Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin, the band held a certain mystique. It was easy for those just outside the fervent flock to shrug, sure they didn’t know the secret handshake.

But that sense, wherever it came from, obscures a bigger reality: Animal Collective happens to make really great pop music. It’s pop cloaked in the many colors of Joseph’s coat, but brilliant and appealing nonetheless.

The band’s latest record, this year’s “Time Skiffs,” houses a number of delightful, inspired moments possessing inherent charisma. The record can fold into the band’s longer story or stand on its own, a door to enter through. Columbia audiences can cross the threshold when Animal Collective plays the next Summerfest show at Rose Park Friday.


Album opener “Dragon Slayer” chases chiming bells and floating countermelodies toward something magical; the track sounds like a hymn composed beneath a pool of moonlight.

The swirling “Car Keys” and ever-evolving “Prester John” follow, both examples of the band’s tendency to build around rhythm and groove. Descant melodies and an eventual, extended slow jam distinguish the former track within a tonally consistent record.

The middle section of “Strung with Everything” ranks among the set’s brightest lights, its melody emerging from the mix’s subtleties to somehow twine the instincts of Brian Wilson and Paul Simon, then stretch across shimmering rhythmic currents.

Waves of sound and whirring motion make “Passer-by” another standout; the track feels more like a full sensory experience than a song, though its melody cuts through to connect.

Perhaps “Time Skiffs” could still sound out-of-reach, if only because Animal Collective has no problem reversing certain dynamics — making moments that would be loud on someone else’s record quiet and more subtle on theirs.

But these songs work on the listener at a visceral level, and contain enough melodic bittersweetness to find a home with all types of audiences.

Friday’s show begins at 7:30 p.m.; Spirit of the Beehive shares the bill. Tickets are $31. Visit for more information.

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