Song of the Day: Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky

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Animal Collective loving animals

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “What Would I Want? Sky” by Animal Collective from the 2009 Fall Be Kind EP on Domino Records.

Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky (MP3)


You might be thinking, why would a band already a top contender for album of the year want to go and put out even more music before the year is up, especially music so good it might compete with their own initial album? But really Fall Be Kind, the group’s second release of 2009, is a long time in coming. The off-again, on-again story of our Song of the Day begins immediately with the January release of Merriweather Post Pavilion. After one of their shows, on the day that followed MPP hitting shelves, high profile blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear were already talking about a new song on the band’s live playlist that was not on the new album, one that sampled the Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain.” Fans were curious: was the continually forward-thinking band already thinking of the next album? In an interview with Pitchfork posted the day before the release, Dave Portner (aka Avey Tare) admitted that they had a few unfinished songs but suggested that “they probably won’t end up on an EP,” leading some blogs to lament the loss of the song and try to satisfy themselves with live recordings of it.

Fortunately, though, new hope arrived in July when Pitchfork reported on AC successfully clearing the first ever officially licensed Grateful Dead sample. Big news to somebody, certainly, but it was hard to imagine either the jaded indie rock kids or the grizzled Deadheads thrilled with the union. Fortunately, we don’t live in a world of stereotypes, and the growing legion of AC fans were quite pleased to learn that the now officially named “What Would I Want? Sky” would somehow see a release. To The Onion‘s A.V. Club, Brian Weitz (aka Geologist) explained that the song was intended for MPP but time ran out before they could finish it — though one would guess that the rights clearing hadn’t happened at the time anyway. And despite Avery Tare’s suggestion that the song might be paired with their Autumn single, “Bloodsport,” the song eventually became part of this solid new EP that contains studio recordings of other live favorites, “Bleed” and “Graze” more recently, and “On a Highway,” which dates back at least to ’07.

So yeah, it’s sort of an odds & sods approach, but the songs fit together so perfectly that you’d never consider these to be cast-offs, let alone b-sides. Worth the wait? Hell yeah! Worth the purchase if you have MPP? Of course! The EP may even appeal to a wider audience including those who didn’t quite get the MPP craze. In fact, “What Would I Want? Sky” could be considered their most accessible song of the year’s entire output, but like most AC material, it requires a bit of patience. For the first three minutes, over-blasted drum beats, a looped vocal run, and ambient electronics loom heavily… until the “sky” opens up as the warmed over ‘Dead sample repeats and the song becomes downright singable! But hey, why are you still reading this? You should be listening to the song now and feel the warmth for yourself. At this time of year, you could use it.

It’s unlikely that Animal Collective will be touring any time soon. They hit the major festivals during the past couple of years, so maybe ’10 will see them take a break. However, Josh Dibb (aka Deacon), the wayward member who took a bit of time off from touring and recording with the band, just posted on the AC MySpace page that he has been invited to perform in Mali, followed by some shows in Europe with Noah (aka Panda Bear) — his first solo performances! — but that he’d like to also take the opportunity to benefit the people Mali by collecting money to support TEMEDT, an organization working to create a law that abolishes slavery of the black Tuareg people and provide them with basic services to move forward. Contributors giving $50 or more will receive a handpackaged CD produced from Josh’s concert and trip. You can find out more here. For now, though, please enjoy this relatively new video for “In the Flowers” from Merriweather Post Pavilion:

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