It's easy to listen to Animal Collective for hours and wind up remembering only euphoria and a few details—an adorable, inhuman noise, maybe, or the way a vocal harmony comes up out of nowhere. Strawberry Jam changes that a little, occasionally allowing keeper melodies to stab through the whimsical layers. "Winter Wonder Land" times its synth swoops to a frantically sung chorus, the noises and the hooks just barely helping each other make sense. The vocal melodies on "Cuckoo Cuckoo" repeatedly get close to something like a hook, only to drizzle away along a hypnotic piano line. Mysteriously, even those teases and flutters—the non-hooks—cling. Jam also feeds on a delicious tension between sweetness and abruptness. Only a steel drummer hurled down a jagged slope could match the rhythm "Chores" begins with, until the song melts down and gives way to the massaging synths and howls of "For Reverend Green." It's chaos, but it isn't. Animal Collective's abstract and catchy sides are each constantly aware of what the other is doing.
More from The A.V. Club