While critics found it easy to lump Animal Collective in with the freak folk scene after the strumming madness of Sung Tongs, Feels may cause them to revise their opinions -- slightly. First, this is more of a rock record, especially early on; the frequent cymbal crashes and pounding drums leave little doubt. Second, Feels has less of the aimless meandering of many artists in the freak folk scene. AC can, and do, explode at any second, and their whirl of musical ideas -- mostly naturalistic, such as intricate vocalizing or tribal drumming -- can become dizzying, but gleefully so, not in a disorienting way. (Imagine Fiery Furnaces condensing an entire album down to three minutes and you'll begin to understand the sound of the second song, "Grass.") So, while the folk tag has become less of an issue, freak still applies with no doubt. A core strength of the group is its ability to sound invigorated and bracing when exploring territory often surveyed in the past. Rock music can be a constraining form, especially at this late date, but the group sounds freer than ever before, almost as though they've never bothered with rock in their lives, and have only happened upon a bare few LPs before beginning their recording career. (If so, one of those would have been by Mercury Rev, although Animal Collective are much less patient in building to a climax -- "The Purple Bottle" has at least a dozen of them.) As on Sung Tongs, the first half is active, direct, and punchy -- nearly overloaded with production and ideas -- while the second half explores quiet, abstract moods, often with only a few tremulous vocals accompanied by autoharp.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush