High Fidelity Fact Checking

Dear Will Hermes of the NYTimes:

In this weekend’s Arts & Leisure section, you’ve written something on ‘freak folk,’ meaning those currrent, genre-less music acts like Joanna Newsom, Devendra, Espers, Juana Molina, etc.

Anyone attempting to do journalistic justice to a musical genre, any genre, has to leave something out, or someone, just due to space concerns. I’m sympathetic on that front. You weren’t writing a book.

But to write something introductory about the emerging ‘freak folk’ genre and not mention Animal Collective at all? Oversight: Major. Makes your entire article dismissable. It’s like writing briefly about cubism and omitting Braque. Please do your homework, or do your Jayson Blair impression elsewhere.

You even wax effusive about Vashti Bunyan, she of the comeback-after-dropping-one-great record-in-1971. Animal Collective have been instrumental in her resurrection (pun intended), to the point of having recorded an EP with her in 2005. Wasn’t strong, had moments. Check it via one track:

Animal Collective & Vashti Bunyan – Prospect Hummer

And here’s one from their much better Sung Tongs (2004) which my daughter calls ‘the monkey song:’

Animal Collective – Leaf House

Thank you,
J Frank P

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15 thoughts on “High Fidelity Fact Checking

  1. i never know what to expect with animal collective – leaf house is ackward and funky, but prospect hummer is sweet and melodic (or at least to my ears).dig the selection.

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  2. Mr. Parnell:Animal Collective will be forgotten and will appear only as a blip in the wonderful history of indie rock/pop

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  3. But you don’t say whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Mr. Anonymous.For one thing, they don’t belong in indie rock/pop. They’re folkies. If they did, they’d be sullying themselves with the likes of viral blips like Ryan Adams.

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  4. irobata: thanks for the digging. I agree – there’s never a hint of what’s next – their latest, <>Feels<>, was poppy but strangely produced and unpredictable, almost like XTC with Skip Spence in the band. Might it be …psychedelia?For the record, I hated and still hate AC’s debut. But I woke up to Sung Tongs and then some.

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  5. Mr. Parnell:You are correct, I should give reasons. Animal Collective seems to have picked up where Red Crayola and others left off. And I never much cared for Red Crayola. It seems to me that if you are going to do “freak core” music, you should be able to play it. We all know that indie music in any form is not about skill, but take a band like Pavement. They were really good at what they did and their skill level stood up. Their fingers could do what they wanted them to do. Animal Collective have no skillful musicians. That genre should be called “block core” because the bands might as well pick their gutiars with blocks. If you are going to play in World Cup, you gotta be able to run up and down the field for 90 minutes. If you are going to play freak core music, you gotta be able to do more than strum a guitar. Last stab: ANY non-traditional classical music you randomly turn on theradio is better than Animal Collective. So why bother?

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  6. Mr./Ms./Mrs. Anonymous:First, your metaphors:Ever hear the Pavement song “Westy Can’t Drum”? They weren’t joking. And you don’t need to run for 90 minutes in the World Cup. It’s why they have substitutions. Okay. I now implore you to listen to Animal Collective a tad more. Maybe the tracks I’ve offered are a bit improvisational for your taste. But it’s completely not about skill. It’s about sound, tone, and something less boring and usurprising than Wilco. But your aesthetic supposition is not just faulty, but frightening: just because Mayo Thompson could actually play well (do we know that for sure? Back in the late sixties?) and better than his artistic intentions required, does that mean we must dismiss artists who made/make great ‘freak’ music or any music while they discovered their instruments along the way? We’d have to dismiss, among others, and I’ll start with the possibly-limited Freaks:The Raincoats; Swell Maps; Arto Lindsay; Will Oldham; Jandek; The Slits; Blind Idiot God; Black Flag; Gang Gang Dance; Wilderness … and then there’sSonic Youth; The Stooges; the Monks; The Gories; Talking Heads; the Pixies (horrible drummer); The Beatles; The Ramones; who all couldn’t play well at first and still made soemthing of it.I’ll stop there. Musical skill isn’t what I come to rock for, not totally. But certainly none of these artists are at the technical level of Mahler, even Stockhausen, Reich, or Moondog. Few are. If you can even find non-traditional classical music on the radio (at least not to the right of the dial), bravo. And if it’s your thing (I prefer to think that jazz composers are the real non-trad classical composers of the 20th century, but that’s another argument) please feel free to not donwload tracks here, cause I ain’t posting that stuff.

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  7. Mr. Parnell:You have made my point for me.”The Raincoats; Swell Maps; Arto Lindsay; Will Oldham; Jandek; The Slits; Blind Idiot God; Black Flag; Gang Gang Dance; Wilderness …” These bands (except for maybe Lindsay) are all catchy, what we once called haivng hooks. Animal Collective sound retarded. They are laptop music for laptop souls.

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  8. Of course they sound retarded – one track I posted is about a retarded kid, you reatard. I’m not kidding. That’s only the first part of how stupid you sound in your eagerness to dismiss them. Here’s the second part: (So you except Arto, good, but) Jandek has hooks? Jandek – we’re taking about the same guy, right? Blind Idiot God was catchy? Wilderness is catchy? Gang Gang Dance has hooks? I suspect you might not know them, and that you’re out of your league, High Fidelity-wise. You’re the person who makes used CD bins, at the right store, so good. The “how could anyone sell this?” person (who isn’t a junkie). Or you’re too busy buying Arto’s horrific recent albums, so bad they gave me a urinary tract infection that spread to my ear?And laptop music — are we talking about the same band when we talk about Animal Collective? I’m not a total defender – their first was shit — but laptop music? What nowadays isn’t? And you’d better get a laptop soul. Desktop souls can’t jackoff in public parks with wi-fi.Please keep coming back to this site. You’re too much fun.

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  9. Animal Collective do everything wrong. Their acoustic sets are strum fests with squirels singing. Their albums suggest that skipping the record in the middle of a song is innovative. Their songs about retarded people sound retarded. When exactly does one listen to Animal Collecitve? When driving – no, you are likely to slip into a coma. When walking, no, you may feel you are being attacked by skipping suqirels. When working out, no, your muscles may self-destruct with boredom. So Mr. Parnell, when does one actually listen to animal collective? Easy answer – when you are writing a blog. Animal Collective is blog music for blog people.Take your favs the Swell Maps. Those boys were interesting before blogs and continue to be interesting. Like the Birthday Party, they grated on me, but they knew right from wrong most of the time. Animal Collective is just always wrong. Without bloggers, there is no Animal Collective. Only goons in bedrooms acting pretentious and still looking for that magic chord to strum.Your devoted reader,…

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  10. Again you got yer facts wrong. 1) How can Swell Maps continue to be interesting when two of them, core founders, are dead? Or do I misunderstand you?2) Swell Maps made only two records, so there wasn’t much room for failure. I’ve already stated I find Animal Collective hit/miss.3)This blog goes back to Feb ’06. I bought the Animal Collective debut on vinyl in what, 2002? ’03?(and then sold it soon after) For me, at least, they’re pre-blog. I actually heard them on the radio, right after some cat-farting concerto by John Cage. 4) Skipping the record in the middle of the recording wasn’t Animal Collective, it was the Boredoms, on their album <> Super Are<>. 5) goons in bedrooms looking for the perfect chord to strum are really just masturbating. Or listening to Aimee Mann, which is less productive.5)So I listen to AC when I’m masturbating. You should too. Masturbate, that is. 5)I like squirrels’ singing. They’re my little Nosferatu, and I am calling out to them, right now, so that they can find their way your ear while you sleep and scrape their way into you brain and eat it. 7) Stop listening to Talking Heads. You know you do. They’re the Most Overrated Band Ever.8) Keep it coming. I have no life.

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  11. I have nothing constructive to add save that article made me want to kill everyone in a 5-mile radius. It’s like that time All Things Considered did a profile of The Polyphonic Spree, and I spent the entire 4 minutes screaming corrections at the radio.

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  12. I recognize the feeling very well. You know what? Re-thinking the thing with a friend Sunday afternoon, I relaized I have sympathetic jealousy for writer Will Hermes and his like – he’s probably smart enough to know that his editors at the NYTimes (or NPR, etc) know even <>less<> about his proposed subject than he will. Unethical, but he got paid for listening to records.

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