Review: Feels (Animal Collective, 2005)


By: Sparks

Animal Collective’s personal touch and unreplicable style certifies the sincerity of their music and solidifies the adoration I feel for this band. All of their releases (full length albums, EPs, single track releases, live recordings) have pushed and inspired me creatively, but 2005’s Feels is a cut above the rest.

Feels is a stirring display of intimacy, adolescence, loss, and relationships. The motif of “children” is seen throughout the album from the cover art (designed by band member Avey Tare), to the opening moments of the first track “Did You See the Words”, the lyricism, and various other samples/sounds used throughout. Animal Collective have always been ones to “bend the rules” when it comes to music and sound and this can be heard once again with Feels. All of the instruments are tuned to a naturally detuned piano. Band member Geologist spoke about the tuning process for the album on a Collected Animals post (a now defunct Animal Collective message board):

"All the songs on Feels are tuned to our friends piano which was out of tune to begin with. Dave (Avey) and I made loops from recordings of him playing her piano, and we used those loops in the early songwriting process for feels. So since those loops are premade and can't be tuned, the guitars have to be tuned to the loops. it's not out of tune in any traditional whole step/half step kind of way...we're talking microtonally out of tune after years of not being professionally tuned and subtle natural detuning. Kind of like if you played guitar in standard tuning for years but never once re-tuned it to make sure it was right. It would have its own unique out-of-tune tuning based on what strings you played most often, how hard you played it, the temperature in the room, the humidity, etc... When we went into the studio it ruled over everything we did. Even Doctess's live piano playing required us bringing in a professional piano tuner, playing him a minidisc recording of our friend's out of tune piano, and having him try to de-tune the studio's piano in exactly the same way our friend's was. Without those recordings or the loops dave and i made, you wouldn't be able to get it exact unless you tune to the album while it's playing, and even then, you'd have to know which loop in the album we use to tune, which one chord it is, and because of the way we mixed the loop in, it is almost impossible to separate from dave's guitar. I'll never forget when the tuner finished (we had to wait to start recording until he finished) and he stood up from the bench and went 'there you go, the piano's perfectly out of tune.'”

In addition to the Animal Collective’s four original members (Avey Tare, Deakin, Geologist, Panda Bear), Feels also features Doctress (Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir) and Eyvind Kang, contributing their talents on piano and violin/viola, respectively. Regarding Doctress, Geologist said on another Collected Animals board in 2006:

"Kristin plays on every song. she played live as we did the live tracking but there was often a lot of bleed into the piano mics from the other instruments so she often re-did or elaborated on her parts at night when she could have quiet in the studio. we all played in one room so there was so [sic] isolation, except josh's guitar amps which we stuck in a bathroom.". He also spoke about Eyvind Kang and the four songs he worked on, Geologist said - "he was only there for an afternoon. we had sent him live recordings of the songs we wanted him on (daffy, bees, fickle cycle, and people) but he never had a chance to listen to them. so he came in and would listen to each track once, then talk with us about ideas, and then just improvise over the song. as scott [Colburn] predicted (he has worked with eyvind many times over the last 10 years), he never hit a wrong note. it was pretty mindblowing to watch. he played violin, viola, and tried some traditional Chinese instrument, which we took out because it didn't mix so well. wish we had more time to jam… good at exploring and pushing the limits of his instruments. he can master the pretty and melodic stuff, harsh noise music, trancey drones, etc."

Of the four songs Eyvind Kang worked on, “Fickle Cycle” and “People” didn't make it onto Feels, but they are included on two separate EPs (Grass and People) and on our I Love It playlist on Spotify! Doctress and Eyvind Kang are a perfect addition to this album, essential in making Feels a one-of-a-kind experience.

I love Feels so much because not only are the lyrics full of emotion, the music is too. The album is gorgeous, vibrant, loud, cozy and intimate. The first four songs “Did You See the Words”, “Grass”, “Flesh Canoe”, and “The Purple Bottle” are buoyant (although "Flesh Canoe" is a bit more subdued), arousing, energetic, and passionate. While “Bees”, “Banshee Beat”, “Daffy Duck”, “Loch Raven” are haunting, reflective, heartfelt, and intriguing, faint sounds and hushed vocals blend into the music. “Turn Into Something” (the final track, a perfect closer) explodes with sound, bringing you right back to the feeling of the album’s first four songs. As it progresses, it melts into a much more delicate track, reminiscent of tracks five through eight.

Each song is brimming with energy and most have a “live” sound to them, as though the band is performing a private concert in your room. This primarily comes from their signature recording style. They set up all their music up to be played live and will “try out” songs at concerts before committing them to recordings. When finally ready to record, they will play in room with microphones in the center, rather than the traditional method of giving one mic to each instrument.

Feels is incredible, from start to finish. It offers a raucous mix of sounds while remaining a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable album. Songs like “Did You See the Words” and “The Purple Bottle” are perfect for a road trip mix, while “Loch Raven”, “Banshee Beat”, and “Daffy Duck” are great for laying out and unwinding.

Kick off your shoes, plug in your headphones, turn up the volume and melt away in the world of Animal Collective.

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