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Avey Tare | Cows on Hourglass Pond

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

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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.