The best way I can describe this album is just: it makes sense. Centipede Hz is an Animal Collective album that makes total sense, in terms of its sound, its release, its themes, and really everything about it. This is a bit weird because, in the case of AnCo, none of their previous albums have ever really done that. Each new album has seemed like a total surprise following the previous one, and everything has always seemed exploratory, if not experimental.
But Centipede Hz makes sense, and I really can’t blame them for that. I mean, Merriweather Post Pavilion was both their most critically acclaimed album AND their most popular, by far! It also sounded like they had finally settled on a specific sound; from Feels to Strawberry Jam to MPP, it slowly sounded like the band was honing in on what type of music they wanted to make, and the sounds of MPP seem to show that. I mean, what could you follow an album like that with? Anything super experimental would almost certainly divide their fanbase, but an attempt to recreate the last album’s sound exactly would probably cause it to pale in comparison to the ‘original’. While it feels like they try to go for a kind of middle ground on Centipede Hz, it does seem to fall into the latter category, and it unfortunately gets hatred from both sides of their possible outcomes.
That’s not to say that this album is bad! Really, this album isn’t all that much like MPP, and it isn’t dangerously experimental. Centipede Hz is, in my opinion, the first AnCo album that didn’t really stray very far from what they were already working on, and that’s okay! It’s a fitting album in their discography, to be honest; there are some strange and uniquely AnCo sounds here. It comes down to what nearly everybody else says about this album, which is that while it’s a lot of fun, and it does still have that Animal Collective vibe: it’s a bit of a mess.
So, let’s talk about its overall sound. This album is very dancey! It is, by far, Animal Collective’s most traditionally danceable album. It does a nice job at combining that glitchy, electronic sound associated with AnCo with some very catchy instrumentals - the first two songs are great examples of this. “Moonjock” is one of my favorite songs on the album, mostly because of how it builds into an incredible breakdown at the end! The beginning of the song alternates between two new sounds that seem like a great introduction to the album; the verses are backed by explosive, slamming synths, and this transitions between the lighter choruses, which are backed by bouncier electronic sounds. But then the bridge changes things up, and eventually - with a screamed “What!” - the song concludes with an explosion of singing and synths! It’s like something that might have been on Strawberry Jam, with more Merriweather-y sounds. In addition, “Today’s Supernatural” is probably the most memorable song off the album, with some very fun AnCo verses and a cool electronic instrumental.
Those are probably the high points on this album - the very exciting, dancey tracks work great with this neo-MPP sound, and they could have honestly paved a new road for AnCo; if they were to pursue making more high-energy psychedelic pop, I would’ve been down with it. That said, this album doesn’t do that - there are also a few songs on here that are more reminiscent of the latter half of Merriweather, at least in their structures.
One part of MPP that I enjoyed was the more deconstructed songs - tracks like “Guys Eyes” and “No More Runnin” with their very loose and lying-around instrumentals were relaxing and fun, and contributed tons to the album’s overall feeling. Several tracks on Centipede Hz do seem to copy that - songs like “New Town Burnout” and “Pulleys” spend time putting together different aspects of the songs, changing over a consistent instrumental. I do like “New Town Burnout” for its ending - the slowly overcoming, throbbing sound transitioning to the next track sounds perfect to my ears. The overall sound of “Pulleys” is fairly consistent, but I really appreciate the occasionally fading and blossoming instrumental. On the other hand, songs like “Rosie Oh” and “Applesauce” seem to follow the Strawberry Jam songwriting structure, with some unnatural vocal rhythms over some complementing instrumentals. They’re more lighthearted songs, where you just lean back and relax to listen to them.
As I listen through the album again now, I’m noticing how many of the tracks are really high-energy and fast - while the previous albums would switch between faster tracks and slower ones, Centipede Hz seems to almost entirely consist of quicker-paced, bouncier songs. “Pulleys” is really the calmest song here, and even it is pretty upbeat. I can definitely understand some of the complaints saying that this album is a mess of various sounds - it does lack some cohesion partially due to this, and it can sound a little like a playlist of songs.
I won’t analyze each track, but I will mention - there aren’t really any BAD songs here. Really, they’re all pretty good, and each individual song can be a lot of fun; it’s a weird situation. Because while I do like each song on this album, the actual album itself isn’t very satisfying for me to listen to. It gets boring after the first half, despite the songs later on still being enjoyable.
I think that what it really comes down to is the type of music here and how it’s organized. Every song here is fairly upbeat and high-energy, which is a sound that seems to work with AnCo, but it does get tiresome after so many songs. Centipede Hz ends up feeling almost like a compilation of fun AnCo music, which does work for a sort of “radio” theme, which is something that they were considering in its creation. I don’t know - I feel like if they’d included just a few songs like “#1” or “Daily Routine” - some weird, experimental songs that aren’t as dancey - this album would be a lot more consistently built, and it might even be comparable to the few before it.
Overall, Centipede Hz is a great album if you want some fairly accessible, exciting AnCo dance music, but quite a bit weaker than the albums that precede it. Still, it does show promise in terms of their songwriting and a consistent sound! I sure hope this carries on in the form of really fun songs and consistently great writing in their next album! (foreshadowing)
Also, as a side note, I tend to confuse Avey Tare and Panda Bear when they sing because their voices are a little close, so Deakin’s voice really stuck out to me here lol. “Wide Eyed” is a nice song, though, and it’s nice to see him back.
Favorite Songs: Moonjock, Today’s Supernatural, Wide Eyed, Monkey Riches, Mercury Man
Least Favorite Songs: Rosie Oh, Father Time