Since the release of Sung Tongs, Animal Collective have developed a clear pattern to their releases; after each full-length they give us an EP that serves as a vehicle for either like-minded leftovers from the preceding album’s recording sessions or additional explorations of basically related musical ideas (often with tinges of the next project). And as any Animal Collective follower knows, they’ve been constantly evolving, with a given album centered around a decidedly distinct sound that then spills over into an intervenient EP. Their latest, Water Curses, seems to be the first to break this mold. Though the EP contains three tracks recorded during the Strawberry Jam sessions, and one new song (“Seal Eyeing”), none are particularly “like-minded”. Indeed, none of the songs would really feel at home on AC’s most recent masterpiece, but instead most seem more grounded in the ambient psych-pop of 2005’s Feels.
The title track, with its manic, bubbling electronics, sweet and infectious melodies, and driving energy, probably comes the closest to being a strawberry jam; yet, there’s still something there that doesn’t quite fit. But, aside from all of these broader stylistic considerations, “Water Curses” is simply one of the best songs to come out of the Animal Collective camp in recent years (and that’s saying something). Inordinately catchy, unabashedly pop, it’s a relentless sonic assault that builds itself into a kind of sugary transcendence that you just can’t seem to listen to enough. And although the rest of the EP is substantially more reserved than the opener, which results in some uneven pacing, it’s still pretty fantastic. I’d say it’s essential for existing fans, but unlikely to convert any non-believers… hey, who needs them anyway?