We all occupy a special place when we are children. It’s a land of largeness and bliss, ignorance to life and death and how complex the world really is. Discovery and innocence are the driving motifs of this fleeting time. We outgrow our outbursts, and like it or not, curb our perceptions to the will of what’s real and probable. But even if we don’t fully understand it, there’s time left for beauty to be found and felt. With its 2005 record “Feels,” Animal Collective brings us back to the messiness, exuberance and brilliant earnestness of childhood.
“Feels” begins with the sound of children’s laughter, as “Did You See the Words?” tumbles forward with bursts of instrumentation and happy yells. Lead-singer Avey Tare sings in a yelpy, exclamatory way that feels natural and totally unaware — it’s just as possible he’s talking to the audience as he is himself, in the unguarded way we express ourselves when we think no one’s watching.
“The Purple Bottle” erupts with excitement and sunshine before a devolving two-thirds of the way through to yells and childish absurdities. It’s a pivotal moment in the album as well — the turning point from loud energy to quiet ecstasy. The narrator realizes the child in him will someday be outgrown, that whimsy will give way to seriousness, that growing up will take away a certain part of him that, even as he contemplates it, shrinks slowly away.
The rest of the album continues in that mellowed-out fashion. From then on “Feels” is subdued and contemplative, a canvas for reflection on the terminal quality that defines our youth. “Turn Into Something” ends the album returning to the same eagerness that started it. Acceptance has been reached, and though childhood must end there is a lifetime left to get lost in.
Music has a transportive quality; it can bring you to a sensory place plucked apart from the realities of space and time. Certain sounds grow on you and evolve, certain chords can convince better than any argument can; of what exactly it may be unclear but what matters is that it feels incredible. Fifty-two minutes of improvised, spontaneous bliss, Animal Collective has created a time machine for special late summers watching the fireflies, amidst campfires and altered states. Feels is as enjoyable on the surface as it is to reflect on, a record that demands thought and consideration, instant gratification and patience, but first and foremost, “Feels” demands to be felt.