When Animal Collective's Sung Tongs erupted from the underground in 2004, it was the overflow of a cultural stew that had been quietly brewing for years before. The disc was the fifth album by the shapeshifting Brooklyn-by-Baltimore quartet, but it was the first to be issued under the name 'Animal Collective'; bringing a singular sense to experiments that'd been made by their members, beforehand, often in solo or duo mode.
2004 was also the year that freak-folk went overground; and though the Devendra Banhart-pimped revolution was already afoot when Sung Tongs was released, the record became a rallying point; not just for jesus-bearded folkalytes, but for experimental boffins, record-store geeks, kitted-out hipsters, and indie-kids of all kinds. Animal Collective felt like they were pushing a cultural sensibility forward, spearheading the sweeping movement of 'new primitivism'.
Hey Kids, Let's Pick Up Sticks!
Their tribalist percussion, communal zone-outs, and vocal harmonies tapped into the freak-folk spirit bubbling up from America's underground, and the band married that with their studio monkeyshines and fashioned something that seemed both of a simpler past, completely of the moment, and radically futurist.
Armed largely with acoustic guitars and harmonized vocals, Avery Tare and Panda Bear commanded a joyous, enthusiastic record filled with a lust for human-existence. Whether knocking out four-part Beach Boys harmonies, aping João Gilberto's gently-gently guitar sway, or fashioning a wicked beat from a bouncing ping-pong ball, Sung Tongs had a feeling that embodied the best notions of 'childlike.' It was a joy that proved effecting: the record has, since, gone on to become one of the more influential discs of the decade.