If you’re a fan of Animal Collective, freak folk, or psychedelia in general, do yourself a favor and devote your ears to this album in its entirety.
I’m not talking about a casual background listen while you’re hard at work browsing through an endless cycle of internet memes you’ve already seen. Eucalyptus needs your undivided attention if you really want to experience its magic. Put on those decent headphones your dad got you for your birthday a few years ago and get lost in some of the most elaborately designed soundscapes in contemporary music.
Avey Tare’s second solo record is one that was shrouded in mystery. Its release came with very little promotional effort, just over a month after it was initially announced. Even over the course of three very busy years for the singer/songwriter and his band Animal Collective, Avey made little to no mention of the projects existence during the countless interviews and radio segments. It’s almost like he made this thing for himself and wasn’t sure if he was going to let the rest of the world have it too. Which is transparent when dissecting the album’s deeply personal, and often dismal subject matter.
The album is thematically and sonically cohesive from start to finish; playing out like one long, sinister Disneyland log ride through muddy swamps and malevolent thickets of trees. With each seemless transition, the listener’s log boat is guided into what feels like a creepy new eco-system with exotic animatronic creatures singing and dancing on lily pads.
Much of the record’s substance comes from slow, percussion-less melodies that wash in and out like white foam waves on the beach. While they can be tiresome at points, the droney segments of the album are crucial, acting as a canvas for the more upbeat numbers like Ms. Secret, Jackson 5 or Roamer to bounce off of in bursts of light. Floating through these sections also reveals the intensely psychedelic nature of the world Dave Portner has created for Eucalyptus.
I’ve never heard anything that emulates a LSD trip quite like this album does. Chaos lurks around every corner. Barrages of frequencies and noise that pan from ear to ear, with each individual echo somehow finding its purpose and falling perfectly into place. Perhaps Avey says it best himelf while crooning,
“Whip up a brew and it mix all the scents in
They spin around me in the sonic dimension.”
Eucalyptus explores an emotional spectrum that understands the significance of bad feelings and the strong desires to overcome them. The lyricism divulges the darkest parts of Avey’s conscience; feelings of crippling insecurity, struggles with apathy, and grievances from a love lost. All the while acknowledging that there is nowhere to turn to but deep inside. He’s continually seeking shelter from the lashing uncertainty of human existence.
A form of personal dissension you’ve probably felt if you’ve ever had two tabs of proper acid and a little introspection.
Not to denounce Eucalyptus as a drug-addled expression of hallucinations; instead marveling at its ability to capture the same eerie-ness and internal emotional fervor one can experience with powerful psychedelics.
The album comes to a close not far from where it began. The log ride comes back to dock at the loading station as Avey cries out,
“Wanna know how this flower became this flower
Wanna bask in your rituals for finding the perfect day,”
still seeking solace and coming up short. After all, life is never stable and comfort is always fleeting. Portner understands this and instead of offering answers, proposes only questions.