The collective discography of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin includes material recorded by different permutations under various names, live albums, solo projects, side projects, and collaborations. It’s confusing and overwhelming. But here are the essentials.
Animal Collective | Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished/Danse Manatee | Fat Cat, 2003 | These are AC’s de facto first two discs, first released in 2000 and 2001 on their own Animal imprint and Catsup Plate Records (with Spirit credited to Avey Tare and Panda Bear), then reissued by Fat Cat as a double album. STGSTV combines many of the disparate elements of AC’s subsequent releases — electronic noise, fast and furious acoustic-guitar strums, African drums, airy piano, psychedelia, ambiance, and pop melody. Danse Manatee brings aboard Geologist, who had started playing live with Avey Tare and Panda Bear shortly after STGSTV was recorded. More experimental than its predecessor, DM is almost exclusively electronic.
Animal Collective, "Essplode" (mp3)
Animal Collective | Here Comes the Indian | Paw Tracks, 2003 | The first AC release to feature all four members (Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin) finds the band mastering the art of electronic sound manipulation. Voices, guitars, keyboards, and drums are processed, often beyond recognition. Frantic and cacophonous one minute, gentle and spare the next, it’s a tour de force of sonic experimentation and a crucial turning point for AC.
Animal Collective | Sung Tongs | Fat Cat, 2004 | AC’s artistic and commercial breakthrough, Sung Tongs is rhythmically, melodically, and harmonically complex yet poppier than anything they had done previously. It features just Avey Tare and Panda Bear, who recorded the album in rural Colorado with little more than acoustic guitars, percussion, and their voices.
Animal Collective with Vashti Bunyan | Prospect Hummer | EP Fat Cat, 2005 | Featuring Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Deakin, this four-song disc marks the reemergence of British psych-folk chanteuse Vashti Bunyan, who released just one album, 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day , before retiring from music. Over the years, the out-of-print album became a cult favorite and coveted collector’s item. Tare fell in love with it following its 2000 re-release by Spinney Records, and AC invited Bunyan to record this EP. The four songs are leftovers from Sung Tongs , on three of which Bunyan sings.
Animal Collective | Feels | Fat Cat, 2005 | With Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin, AC’s best work to date and one of the most important albums of last year. Period.