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Avey Tare | Cows on Hourglass Pond

The Animal Collective frontman delivers his most focused solo outing to date.

Animal Collective have never really been my musical drug of choice. And I’ve sampled more than enough to acquire the habit — I’ve reviewed most of their major releases (and a few minor ones) over the years. But the truth is, I seldom find myself being drawn back to their music after the initial high has worn off. That is in no way a criticism of the Baltimore neo-psychedelicists or their output — I have mucho respect for their talents and abilities even if they’re not my personal cup of tea. Somewhat unsurprisingly, that’s the curious position I find myself in once again while listening to Cows on Hourglass Pond, the third solo album from AC singer-guitarist and chief songwriter Avey Tare (whose mom knows him as David Portner). The 10 songs on this 45-minute set are uniformly strong, deftly balancing the trippy textures and spaced-out sonics you anticipate with more focused pop melodies and intelligible lyrics than some might expect. The result is arguably his strongest set to date: A delicately spiked cocktail of analogue synths, acoustic guitars and free-flowing ’60s songcraft that capably and creatively supports Tare’s adenoidal crooning. And the overall effect is intriguingly incongruous — simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic, subterranean and soaring, introspective and expansive. It should easily satisfy the faithful, earn beaucoup and well-deserved kudos, make plenty of critics’ lists and snag a few award nominations. So far, so good. Now I just have to wait and see if this is the one that hooks me once and for all. Fingers crossed.