Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished is usually considered to be the first Animal Collective album, but because of the disorganized nature of the band's formation, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when Animal Collective came into existence. All four members (Avey Tare, Geologist, Deakin, and Panda Bear) knew each other in high school and college, and would trade home-recorded music amongst themselves. Spirit They're Gone was written and recorded almost entirely by Avey Tare, with the drum tracks provided by Panda Bear. It was released in 2000 under the artist name Avey Tare and Panda Bear, but would be rereleased three years later as an Animal Collective album and packaged with Danse Manatee.
Down There is Avey Tare's first official solo album, recorded and released more than ten years after the songs of Spirit They're Gone were written. Eight Animal Collective albums have been completed in the interim, and along with the other members of the group Avey (David Portner) has had a decade to experiment with and refine his particular sound. Going through the Animal Collective discography and using Spirit They're Gone and Down There as metrics, you can easily pick out which songs Portner had a hand in. That's not to say his music hasn't progressed over those ten years, but simply that Portner knows what he wants in a song and is able to consistently achieve it.
There is a noticeable maturity in Down There. It's far more restrained than any Animal Collective release; the shrieks and whoops of Feels and Sung Tongs are almost entirely absent. On the other hand, with Merriweather Post Pavilion it appeared that they were moving in that direction anyway. Down There shares almost as much with MPP as it does with Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished, but the former being the most recent Animal Collective album I suppose that can be expected. The drum beats are simplistic throughout, almost as if their presence was decided out of tradition rather than taste.
There is a stronger focus on the singing and lyrics here than on any Animal Collective album, except maybe Merriweather Post Pavilion. The music is unobtrusive to the point of nearly becoming ambient, drifting and ebbing softly like zero gravity lullabies. Synths twinkle, gurgle, and hum but never break the surface, and as a result many of the songs don't give a lot to remember them by. This isn't necessarily a problem; it just means the album probably works better as background music.
1. Laughing Hieroglyphic (6:49)
2. 3 Umbrellas (2:43)
3. Oliver Twist (4:19)
4. Glass Bottom Boat (1:42)
5. Ghost of Books (4:48)
6. Cemeteries (4:07)
7. Heads Hammock (3:35)
8. Heather in the Hospital (3:18)
9. Lucky 1 (3:23)
Down There - Avey Tare - 2010 - Paw Tracks