Animal Collective are often thought of as the esoteric band of this generation. They have unique songwriting and a wondrous sound design quality that sets them in a league of their own, and plenty of people love them for that. Their identity is a part of what makes them. So many people welcome being the kind of person who is “into Animal Collective.”
But if you want to be the kind of person who is “into Animal Collective” but you’ve never touched their music before, it can be difficult to figure out where to get started. Chronological order isn’t the best, considering the size of their body of work, but hitting the most popular tracks might not do the trick.
If you want a curated list of some of the best songs to get you into Animal Collective, you’ve come to the right place. Of course, everyone will have their own opinions about their work (one of their followers’ favourite activities seems to be debating and comparing) but you can use this list as a comprehensive jumping-off point.
10 songs to make you fall in love with Animal Collective:
If Animal Collective as a whole is an acquired taste, ‘My Girls’ is sweet as sugar. This is their most popular, and their most accessible song, so it makes sense that it would make for a good barrier of entry. The track is upbeat, sparkly, fun, and perfect for the summer.
‘My Girls’ is also one of those songs that’s popular without being able to really put a name to the face, so there’s a decent chance that even if you have no idea who Animal Collective are, you’ll still recognise the song once the chorus hits.
In my personal opinion, ‘Fireworks’ has all the makings of competing with ‘My Girls’ for the most popular song, and it would be the first and only song I’d play to entertain the world, if I had anything to say about it. However, I can’t rule the world. I can, however, recommend that this gets added to your playlist right away.
‘Fireworks’ has a sort of punchy euphoria to it that represents a lot of Animal Collective’s other work quite well, even if it’s just a taste. The variation in sound and the unique melody make it a standout of Strawberry Jam, which is, in my opinion, one of their best albums.
‘Prester John’ is a favourite off their most recent album, Time Skiffs. Even though they’re a band prized for their earlier works, their most recent album rocked everyone with a solid and beloved effort. Therefore, this song more than earns its place.
The song has a sense of melodic distinction, and at the same time, it creates an entire enveloping world, which is something that this band does best.
‘Man of Oil’
This is a track of theirs that plays with sound in some of the more standard ways that their fans love them for. However, it is still a great introductory song for getting you into that methodology. The intro has a unique quality that shifts into a lighter, more acoustic melody.
This is also a track that demonstrates a rare vocal clarity from the band, so it’s a great one to toss in there for some much-needed variation.
Another gem off their newest album, Time Skiffs, the song ‘Car Keys’ is exceptionally captivating, even with its odd melodic steps. It’s almost a little psychedelic in nature, and it gives off a very trippy, flowing energy. Again, the vocal clarity shines on this track quite a bit.
The keyboards on this song also mix in quite well to create a surround-sound, almost choir-like experience as they layer on the vocals. It’s a fun one.
Throwing it back a little, this track is perhaps the shortest and sweetest on the list. Although it might not necessarily encapsulate the infectious sound quality of a repeat banger that you want to blast over and over again, but what it will do is introduce you to the slightly more odd qualities of Animal Collective.
This song is short, experimental, and sort of odd, but if there was one of those that needed inclusion on this list, it’s ‘College’.
Getting back into the true bangers, ‘Summertime Clothes’ is fun, sort of magical in tone, and starts off with the same kind of experimental sound design that the band, as you surely know by now, does very well.
This one leans into the jumpy, electronic choppiness that makes it so distinct. It almost has a Vampire Weekend-esque quality, but with a bit more of a maximalist sound design.
‘The Purple Bottle’
‘The Purple Bottle’ is yet another example of Animal Collective showing off that maximalist sound design. The percussion really anchors ‘The Purple Bottle’, and the vocals layer over it for a perfectly infectious, upbeat track.
Off their 2005 album, Feels, this is one of their more classic fan favourites, but it’s also a very accessible listen that can appeal to a lot of different tastes and settings.
This is one of those tracks that encapsulates the whimsical, upbeat, happy tone that Animal Collective’s experimental style can access. The vocals are sort of obscured, and the maximalist instrumental layering on top of the unique percussion combine to make a unique track that’s still tons of fun.
Off 2016’s Painting With, ‘FloriDada’ isn’t always the first thing people think of when they want a popular Animal Collective song, but it’s a gem nonetheless.
‘What Would I Want? Sky’
Last but not least, ‘What Would I Want, Sky?’ is an ambient, experimental, sound-wave-filled track that really shows you what Animal Collective is all about. At the same time, the beat, the melody, the vocals—all of it comes together to make a sweet and encapsulating song.
I think the track does well for the end of the list because by the time you’ve heard all the rest, you’re going to be as ready as ever to embrace the sweet sounds of Animal Collective’s full experimentation.