Everybody got some favourite albums. Music that accompanied yourself through difficult times, records that acted like a friend when there was real one around. Whether it was the sound around the times of your first kiss or the starting point of your own attempts to take a deeper look into new musical territories. We all have this record somewhere in our hearts and private collections. In this category NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION lets the artists do the writing as they share their personal stories and feelings on their most loved record with us.
American indie artist DARWIN DEEZ, who is about to release his new album Double Down this Friday, introduces us to his teenage fascination with ANIMAL COLLECTIVE and how it informs many of his own musical experiences. For DARWIN DEEZ, the music of this psychedelic band from Baltimore accompanied him through teenage experiences and continued to follow him once he had begun his own music career. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE have offered influences to a great deal of artists. Earlier this year, Raphaelle Standell-Preston of Canadian synth pop band BRAIDS cited their 2005 album Feels as a favourite of hers. So, there must be something with this band, right?
Animal Collective – ‘Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished’ (2000)
I remember when Merriweather Post Pavilion dropped. It was early 2009, winter. I was playing a show in a basement in west Philadelphia. A Philly friend, Chrissy Tashjian, got us the gig. There were some 5 bands playing that night. That show turned out to be a milestone for me as a musician: the first time strangers sang along to my music. They were some college radio DJs at Drexler University who had discovered my songs online or something. My Girls came on the stereo at this house show in between the bands. ‘This must be the new Animal Collective album!’ I was really excited to hear it. It was poppy; it was groovy. Everybody was loving it. ‘Finally!’ ANIMAL COLLECTIVE had been releasing albums for like 9 years by that point. Merriweather is their 8th record according to Wikipedia. I was happy they seemed to have a solid album coming out. A tuneful one, at last, and maybe even a big one for them. I’d been waiting for them to do a record like that for a long time.
I discovered ANIMAL COLLECTIVE in 2002, my senior year of high school. I found their albums while browsing on soulseek (a post-Napster file sharing site/app). I fell in love (not immediately) with their debut, Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. Pretty quickly I grew to like every song on it. That alone impressed me hugely. I admired their intrepid fusion of harsh noise and gentle melody. (I made an entire album attempting the same before my 2010 debut.) Their abrasive electronic noises were beautiful to me, and buried in odd structures, under 1000 dBs of excess treble, were catchy, pretty melodies. I used to listen to my burned CD of Spirit in my 1988 Honda Accord (white, with the pop-up headlights) on my way to Quaker school. The repetitive codas at the end of songs like La Rapet and Bat You’ll Fly moved me. I was in the car when I stumbled on their poignance.
18 was the year existentialism hit me like a sack of uppercuts. I was questioning everything I’d ever known that year, including whether God was Love, and whether Love—capital L—was of any value whatsoever (thanks, Nietzsche). It was an emotional time for me and I got plenty of release listening to these long, relentless codas. 5 of the 10 songs end with repeating sections. The emotions expressed on that record, especially in those endings, are so raw and childlike. There is sadness and there is vastness, but there is also plenty of effervescence and cheerful innocence. Spirit is not a dark record; I don’t endure dark artists. Well, I did, and I do (see below), but I sort of gave it up forever after a serious bout with depression during my freshman year of college in 2003. It’s part of why my music is so upbeat I think.
There are some amazing downer records out there. I myself was—and probably still am—too sensitive to absorb them without getting stuck in the dumps. During my tough year, I was using sad music to make myself feel bad in order to deal with how bad I felt. Making myself feel worse by listening to heartbreaking songs and reading heartbreaking philosophy gave me a sense of control, I think. It put me deeper in the rut, though. Big mistake. Took a lot of time to undo. My other two favorite records around this time were 90 Day Men’s (It (is) It) Critical Band and My Red Scare by FRANKIE SPARO. Both consistently amazing records from song to song, but two pretty dark and depressing discs at the end of the day. I remember giving these records up in order to start trying to feel happy.
That’s why Spirit They’re Gone is so special to me now. Because it touched me deeply without being a downer. Maybe most inspiring of all is how successful they eventually became after starting with such a homemade (read: badly mixed) masterpiece. After paying dues for 10 years, working at Other Music in NYC, playing shows to no one (Chapel Hill, Here Comes the Indian tour—I was there), incurring ostensible hearing damage—after all this—they get to play big festival gigs in the sky and they completely deserve it. Spirit was there for me. Spirit supported me, let me cry on its shoulder, while carefully steering me away from despair. Spirit inspired me, showed me how to DIY. I think Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished might be my favorite record.