Artist: Avey Tare
Label: Domino Recording Co.
Avey Tare, also known as Dave Portner, is one of the founding members of the most influential and acclaimed psychedelic music group of the last 20 years: Animal Collective. His work in that band has been amazing and they have produced a not insignificant number of my favorite albums ever. However, Avey has never really had a successful solo record; that is, until now.
(Baller album cover)
I really enjoyed this album. I think it's some of Avey's strongest songwriting throughout a whole project and there's a great diversity among the tracks here. You get bright and cheery psychedelic pop alongside soundscapes that take a while to develop. It's all tied together by the opaque and interesting lyrics and the repetitive and entrancing instrumentals. Let's dig a little deeper into the tracks.
"Invisible Darlings" is an awesome opening track and was the bright and cheery psychedelic pop I was previously referring to. This has such a fun piano line throughout and it makes you just nod your head. The main word I could use to describe this song would be "sweet." It's got a nice little vocal melody, cute little lyrics, and sweet little piano lick. Also, a fun little bridge where he distorts his vocal. Great opener and a fun song. Unfortunately, good vibes don't exactly continue into the next track "Lips At Night." Look out, he's horny-posting on main. I can't escape the fact that the opening line and chorus are both sex puns. Dude you're like 47. This song's a bit of a shit-post as he also mentions BitCoin in the lyrics. This song has multiple weaknesses to me. The lyrics take me out of any consistent mood I could get into when listening to this (I never thought I would hear any AnCo-adjacent act say "bitcoin.") and it seems to be compositionally undercooked. I hate to say that, as I am a non-musician and I couldn't fix it but compared to some other songs here this song starts with less interesting melodies and instrumentation and does less with it's length and development. Despite my disparaging, I wouldn't say this is a bad song, just not my cup of tea. The next 3 songs are exactly my cup of tea.
The centerpiece of this record is found in the middle 3 tracks. God these are such ragers. "The Musical" was the lead single for this album and is the most straightforward song on here. I don't mean that as a diss at all, everything in this song compositionally makes sense, the vocal melody on the chorus is beautiful and the instrumental is once again, bright and delightful. This song gets into a lot of great grooves which is a strength of the entire record, but especially on this track with a mini-guitar solo starting at the 3:20 mark that just locks in totally with the backing rhythm. If you want to check out one song from this album to see if it's something you'd like, I would recommend this one. After "The Musical" we get to two behemoths of songs, "Hey Bog" and "Sweeper's Grin." "Hey Bog" is such a cool track. I love it's composition and structure. Before the main part of the song starts you get a 3 minute 30 second partially-ambient lead in. And then when it does start you get maybe the best instrumental on the album with shimmering guitars, tattering hi-hats, and an awesome synth line that functions as the bassline. This song pulsates, this song grooves, I love it so much. Super interesting lyrics as well which I enjoy listening to but have no clue how to decipher. The main part of this song might be one of my favorite AnCo-related tracks ever, it's that good to me. Also, this could conceivably be the start of Bogcore, my new favorite genre. And then my favorite song on the album, "Sweeper's Grin." Awesome song. This song has a bit of a wall of sound vibe going for it and I'm pretty close to calling it shoegaze. This has such a strong propulsive rhythm to it while also being incredibly calming to me. Perfect driving music. It's a dreamy, ethereal track and the repeated refrain of "happy to be carefree" summarizes it better than anything I could write.
The record sort of stumbles towards the finish line though. I mean, it still finishes the race but maybe it didn't quite nail the finish. "Neurons" is still a strong song and shares many strengths with the 3 preceding songs but I would say it doesn't hit quite the same highs as those songs. I really like the percussive elements and the vocal melody on the verses in this song. Also, the pulsating electronic sound in the back and slight distortion add to the overall vibe of the song. It also builds and decompresses well but I think ultimately I don't really like it's structure. It basically does a reset in the middle and then builds to an iffy crescendo. Very interesting instrumental choices and vibes in this song, just not a great finished product.
And now for something completely different. "Cloud Stop Rest Start" is totally different from every other song on this album. Instead of a fun psychedelic groove you have a stark, electronic backing. Avey's vocal is the main feature on this song instead of being a part of the groove like it is in the other tracks. It's just kind of weird and out of place. Not a bad song but probably would have been better placed on another project.
Some more things I should say: this record has a lot of repetition to it and that might not be everyone's cup of tea. For me, I think the repetition adds a lot to the song's here and helps you sink into the record (Bog-style). Avey's voice and vocal delivery also might not be for everyone but if it's not for you, you're lowkey mid sorry. If you're looking for great psychedelic pop released in the year of our lord 2023, you can't do much better than this album.
Reviewer’s Name: Luke Wise
Date of Review: 2/19/2023