Campfire Songsby Animal Collective
Originally recorded in 2001 and released in 2003 under the name Campfire Songs, this eponymously titled album serves as a record of the early experiments in melodic atmospherics by members of what would eventually become the Animal Collective (featuring Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and Deakin). Recorded on a screened-in porch in one take on a brisk November day, the album is like the psychedelic folk soundtrack to a camping trip that never happened. With its sparse combination of nature sounds, meandering acoustic guitars, and ethereal vocal harmonies, Campfire Songs contains ambient landscapes that start out feeling inscrutable before eventually becoming strangely warm and inviting. The lyrics, barely discernible, give the feeling of an eavesdropped conversation, requiring the listener to saddle themselves up to their campfire and listen intently to find their hidden meaning. Despite the wandering nature of the songs, nothing feels accidental or improvised. The airy beauty of the vocal harmonies and the flowing transitions between songs show a real sense of purpose and vision, creating a series of tracks that are more musical than soundscapes, but not quite songs in the traditional sense. While Campfire Songs isn't nearly as dense or kinetic as Animal Collective's later work would be, it shows off their penchant for layered harmony and experimental song structures, which makes for a fine piece of atmospheric headphone listening.
- Release Date:
- Paw Tracks
Performance CreditsAnimal Collective Primary Artist
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Campfire Songs was an idea brewing in the minds of Noah Lennox (who goes by moniker Panda Bear), David Portner (Avey Tare), Josh Dibb (Deakin), and Brian Weitz (Geologist) around 2001. They wanted to create an album that glowed with warmth, like you would find at a campfire sing-a-long. But let's stop right there. This is no Roger Miller or Johnny Cash-style "Koombayah." This is Animal Collective at their most organic. Which means extremely experimental. Recorded in one take on 3 microphones hooked to MiniDisc players, Campfire Songs is an album with all the feel of a spontaneous hippie jam. Minimal instrumentation (pretty much guitars and vocals), ambient sounds (it was recorded on a screened porch in the middle of a cold November), and subtly-added textures offer a unique look at Animal Collective, one of the most talked about and electronic bands of 2009, at their most "bare bones." The album as a whole is one journey. There is no other way to properly listen to it. A song taken out of the album just does not sound right. It's very much a 42 minute long song that just HAPPENS to be broken into parts. I would recommend this album to any Animal Collective fan who doesn't already own this essential part of their discography. For others, I would HIGHLY recommend starting with their album Feels, moving to Strawberry Jam, heading to Merriweather Post Pavilion (their best), then tapping into Sung Tongs and the rest of their releases, including this one. Starting too early with this band can be quite jarring and rather... displeasing to someone not used to the high level of experimentation that this band is known for. Overall, Campfire Songs is an enjoyable album from start to finish, especially due to its cohesiveness. But, alas, it is nowhere near their best.