The only thing that seemed certain after 2009’s ecstatic psych-pop masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion was that Animal Collective would never make a record as accessible or consistent again. But on Down There, Avey Tare has more or less followed in MPP’s relatively conventional, song-oriented footsteps; he substitutes subterranean slipperiness for spiritual uplift, but otherwise the AC member commonly seen as the source of the group’s most grating experiments deals mostly in pulsing R&B beats and submerged but discernible hooks. While Down There doesn’t have a bum track, that’s not always a plus for an Animal Collective disc; it’s a record rife with pleasures of the safe and predictable sort.
Flowing along with an easy slither, Down There glides smoothly through nine tracks over the course of 35 brisk minutes, culminating with the dynamite one-two punch of the click-clacking “Heather In The Hospital” blending seamlessly into the powerful pulse of “Lucky 1.” Down There feels like one long song that ebbs and flows with the art-rock sweep of prime-era Peter Gabriel; only the Timbaland-goes-goth groove of “Oliver Twist” rises high enough above the whirring sonic swoosh to make a solid impression. The dearth of wild-eyed dead-ends and weirdness-for-weirdness’ sake makes Down There a compact and instantly pleasing listen, even when it goes down too easily.