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Sung Tongs

Animal Collective
Sung Tongs
(Fat Cat Records)

In my review for their Here Comes The Indian album, I basically stated that when the Animal Collective focused their efforts a little bit more, it would knock people upside the head (in a good way). After hearing their first couple efforts and viewing them as interesting but slightly indulgent, I again felt the same way as their release under the name of Campfire Songs, a porchside ditty album of twisted madness that again showed serious signs of brilliance mixed in with some dallying about.

With Sung Tongs, the group (this time just the duo of Avey Tare and Panda Bear) has taken another step in refining their sound and the result is one of the most fresh and exciting albums that you'll most likely hear this year. Sung Tongs is 12 tracks and 52 minutes of the most bizarre and absolutely mind-bendingly infectious pop music that you'll hear this year. It's Beach Boys on hallucinogens run through a laptop or something very similar, a spree of slap-happy goodness that again shows the group exploring the further boundaries of vocal and instrumental harmonies and basically kicking ass in the process.

Starting with "Leaf House," the duo reaches dizzying heights with very little more than acoustic guitars and vocals. Flowing through several different segments, the song starts out almost tribal, soon gracefully switches over to something else, and bursts into a giddy close before ending with subdued 'meows.' "Who Could Win A Rabbit" takes things in another stunning direction mixing shimmers of acoustic guitar with soaring vocals chock full of hooks, blasting through just over 2 minutes of music that will stick in your craw like crazy glue.

After the childlike first couple of songs, the group wisely slows things down on "The Softest Voice," and although it takes things into a more tripped-out space, it feels much more focused than some of the longer tracks on albums of old. From there, it's right back into the amazing one-two punch of "Winters Love" and "Kids On Holiday," as the duo again makes sing-along melodies seem as easy as if they're growing on trees while "College" is a hilarious one-minute ode to non-academia. Although the group again allow themselves to get a little bit long-winded on the nearly 13-minute "Visiting Friends," it's only a very minor mis-step in the overall flow of an otherwise excellent disc. If "We Tigers" doesn't have you whooping along (even my dogs freaking love it), then their might be something wrong with the portion of your brain that allows you to have fun. Basically, this is one of my favorite releases of the year so far. I only hope that the group continues their weird and wonderful ways.

Rating: 8.5