Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
If Animal Collective staple Dave Portner hadn’t expanded his bedroom-psych-experimental freakout duo with Noah Lennox into a full-scale indie-pop monolith, he still may be regularly making the kind of music that appears on his latest release, the sprawling and at times conniving Eucalyptus. At just over an hour in length, it bears songs that aren’t quite as dependent on acoustic blankets of bliss as AnCo’s Campfire Songs or Sung Tongs, yet not as fuzzed out or glitchy as their chaotic earlier works such as Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished or Danse Manatee. Additionally, the album couldn’t be further apart sonically from his most recent side venture, Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, who’s 2014 debut was a thesis for a sort of “acid punk”. Aside from a few featured voices (including former girlfriend and Slasher Flicks bandmate Angel Deradoorian) and the technical help of AnCo’s Josh Deakin, this damp and dewy opus is all Avey Tare.
Beginning with the fragile and gorgeous “Season High” the album is jam packed with strange animal and voice samples and laced with Avey Tare’s unmistakable tenor. “Today fantasy is on the range/And the city’s riding, corralling, conniving/Today in looking for the thing that’s raw/It’s the chimp’s brawl, stuntman’s gonna take a fall” are some of the first utters from the singer and it perfectly sets up the thematic tone for the rest of the album. Avey is trying to transition further into his own adulthood as he reminisces about the Monterey Pop Festival and how “hippies are crying”.
The acoustic swirl of “Melody Unfair” brings to mind classic Portner/Lennox compositions such as “Mouth Wooed Her” and “Doggy”. Then “Ms. Secret” takes that classic sound and augments it further with Avey’s own unique personality. He’s reaching high into his falsetto to recreate the sound of Panda Bear without totally trying to mimic him. He recalls his youth with the lyrics, “Stay up, gotta stay up man/It’s been so long since we laughed in the darkness/And sometimes we’d say, ‘What if the light didn’t come?'”
Once “Jackson 5” comes around, we’re presented with some of the more modern song craft that Portner was doing on Animal Collective’s most recent album Painting With as well as his Slasher Flick’s project. It’s still mellow in its arrangement but its also got the upbeat and pounding rhythm that makes all of his best work successful. This quality is also heard on standout tracks like “Boat Race” and “Roamer”. It’s clear to see that the indie folk of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes has rubbed off on Portner these past few years.
It’s practically impossible to predict what any single member of AnCo will come out with next, and Eucalyptus is no exception. On his second solo album Dave Portner has yet again redefined his own sound as Avey Tare. The songs are fantastic, the production has depth, and it makes an hour fly by like it was half as long. Now we just need another solo album from Panda Bear and 2017 will have had no shortage of AnCo related music coming out of it.