Animal Collective, Fall Be Kind (Domino)
These days it's hard to brush aside a sensitive new-age tear without dampening the laptop of some white idiosyncratic indie rock genius. Even amid this quirkily lachrymose sea of Brian Wilson worshippers, though, Animal Collective stands out, not so much because they're even more genius-like than their peers (though, you know, they are plenty genius-like) as because they just don't seem to quite fit. Compared to Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective has a swagger. If they were magically transported back to the '60s, it seems quite possible they might first opt to visit not Brian Wilson but Bob Dylan.
You can hear that attitude all over their latest EP, Fall Be Kind—in the so-sincerely-smarmy-it-sneers emoting on "Graze"; in the Dylan/Lou Reed sensitive/tough-talk singing on "What Would I Want? Sky"; in the opening borderline-abrasive techno hook on "I Think I Can;" even on "Bleed," which sounds, improbably, like a Tears for Fears track. For all their fussy arrangements and pretty harmonies, the guys in Animal Collective still manage to come off like rock stars. That's probably a big part of the reason why they're so critically validated—and also why I often find them a little irritating. Not that there's anything wrong with Dylan or Lou Reed or rock stars in general. I just personally prefer my insular feyness without the touch of irony.