2007 has already seen the release of albums by the two front-figures of Animal Collective. Panda Bear’s acclaimed Person Pitch sounds like an acid-tripping Brian Wilson singing the Lion King soundtrack from the bottom of a well. Meanwhile, Avey Tare’s collaboration with his Icelandic wife Kría Brekkan, Pullhair Rubeye, made for rather more difficult listening: the pair recorded the album and then decided it sounded better running backwards, so released it in reverse.Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective’s eighth album proper, has elements of both these offerings. ‘Chores’, with its looped Beach Boys melody, could have been pulled straight off Panda’s solo effort, while various electronic glitches in ‘#1’ and ‘Cuckoo Cuckoo’ recall the unsettling pulses of the Pullhair experience. Overall, though, Strawberry Jam is dominated by Tare’s distinctive vocals and upbeat if often disconcerting melodies. At times it is almost poppy – album opener and highlight, the brilliant ‘Peacebone’, is punctuated by a catchy refrain and a cheery beat – but this masks occasionally disturbing lyrics. “And an obsession with the past is like a kid flying/…when we did believe in magic and we didn’t die”, Tare yelps, “it was the mountains that made the kids scream”.This is perhaps Animal Collective’s finest album: it finds them at their most expansive and accommodating, and is certainly more accessible then its predecessor Feels. It is hard to see how the band could possibly still be lumped in with the ‘psych-folk’ scene. Pigeonholing the band as such is to do them a disservice. This album makes for a luscious and exciting musical experience, bubbling and buoyant. The contribution of the whole ‘collective’ is always evident, be it the creative guitar-work, the electronic bleeps and scratches or the rainforest percussion. All in all, this Strawberry Jam is a decidedly tasty treat.