Doggy is the name of the second track on Animal Collective's third album, Campfire Songs. A definitively better live version can be found here, where the vocals are clearer, the sound quality is better, and the lyrics can easily be deciphered. That's nothing like the album version, which was recorded in one take, in 2003 on a cold November porch in Baltimore.
"I still think "Queen of My Pictures" into "Doggy" is one of the best things we’ve done together."~Panda Bear
There are two ways to get into Animal Collective, that is there are two vocalists. There is Avey Tare (a ripping up of the name Dave Portner), who shouts and screams on stage, sings about his noxious singing, attacks from the throat. Alongside wife, he recorded Pullhair Rubeye in 2007, but they decideding to completely reverse the music before releasing it. Pitchfork gave the album a 1.0 out of 10 for its blatant unlistenability, very far from the pefect score they gave Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion ensuring their status as pyschedellic/indie/folk/rock legends.
The other way is the group's dueling vocalist, Panda Bear. Often referred to in the style of Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, are simply pure and harmonic. His solo album Person Pitch holds two tracks over 12 minutes each, eager to spread out his voice and hypnotize.
Doggy is created out to the warmth of the campfire, with soft lo-fi wind blowing, Panda Bear & Avey Tare, with Deakin backing and Geologist recording. You can see at their live performances the raw, senseless art backing their beautiful rantings. In that auditorium, playing "Winter's Love" without even fingering notes on their guitars.
Flash-forward to 2012, after their career breakthrough, playing between the red-claw lips that enshroud them in the Centipede Hz album art. Perhaps they look trapped, when they played for Pitchfork's Paris Festival. The eagerly disapointed webstie gave their latest album a 7.4, dropping from their 2009 perfection. (Perhaps simply to help sell Grizzly Bear's perfect Shields, for the band was playing the next, and final, night.) Panda Bear and Avey Tare look like they're at work, exchanging keyboards for drums and vocals. Or maybe that's just because of all the acid they took in high school, watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Deakin is happily singing a song for the first time, but wears a white jumpsuit, almost ostracized from the band with his guitar. Geologist, providing the electronic beats, somehow elicts the most energy. While the others sing, he dances in the dark with his headlight on, slaying the didgeredoo in "Lion In A Coma" along with the the atmospheric frequencies that make Centipede Hz sounds like aliens tuning into a bizarre, futuristic AM radio station.
And tuning in there, between the odd, noisical variations interluding confusedly joyous and dancable songs, I was no longer at the concert. The minimal vocals, carried between audio textures and albums and tones, levitated between Panda and Avey, encompassing Geologist who fine tuned the wave of emotion and dissipated it among the audience. I was not at a rock concert, I was in a museum, watching the red and green stage lights that emitted, not the presence of its own actuality, but the emotion it stirs.
I'm lost again in Doggy, and the rawness of these musicians natural talent. Though they were criticized for overcompensating with jolting noise in Centipede Hz, (Pitchfork said the album "feels like someone throwing a burrito on your windshield") they still have their entwining musical connection, talent, gift, whatever you want to call it. In the echoes of the band's history, in the single afternoon, Doggy comes to stand as a triumph of their natural performance. It is upbeat and catchy, carefree and delightful, but at the same time exploiting negative space, taking silence to mourn a dead puppy.
Of course it's sad. And I prefer not to learn the lyrics. Though they resonate with Panda Bear's soft yet potent lyricism:
Dog of depth in the dirt They buried you deep, doggy. You're the best doggy .... But you lay there so still doggy You lay there so still
It's hard not to memorize the last part, and the undeniable stiltedness in the music. You just want to get on with it, but you can't. The dog is dead. You must sit there, with these maniacs, and let them find the melody beneath the coated layers of their colorful noises, electronic or acoustic. I now take pleasure in getting lost to it. I listened to this band probably once a day for a full year before I realized I was an enormous fan. Because yes, for the most part, they can be very disruptive and unpleasant. After that, you understand how fully to appreciate their moments of unity and harmony. Hold on, because pretty soon after the wave of Panda Bear's vocal, Avey Tare will come to rip the music open:
"Come on and let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let GO!"~ "Today's Supernatural"