Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam

In what might be the best stoner album in years, maybe this decade, Brooklyn's nearly spent Animal Collective have finally delivered on the volumes of praise they've accumulated. A few tribal elements of 2004's Sung Tongs and the distorted, haphazard vocals of 2005's Feels are still present, but Strawberry Jam ups the ante with loads of electronica warps and gurgles and samples galore. What would normally be perceived as chords don't really change, thus a repetitive element persists throughout the album, done differently on each track. Opener "Peacebone" finally has enunciated vocals but pounds away through an assaulting mish-mash of acoustic guitars and futuristic laser pulses. "For Reverend Green" is another keystone pot jam, stuttering through layered samples of static that accompany yelps and screeches — but, again, they're coherent. That's crucial to a quality stoner jam: Songs may sound different under different conditions but always contain something you can latch onto. With "#1," it's the loopy piano; "Chores," the seesawing vocals. There's depth here that's been absent in Animal Collective's past. Listen to just one track, you'll feel lost; listen to Strawberry Jam straight through and you'll be floored. It just might be even better high.

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