Listening to Animal Collective's latest album, "Sung Tongs," is like stumbling onto on a particularly exuberant front-porch jam session. The vocal sporting of duo Avery Tare and Panda Bear, the founding members in this Brooklyn-based collective, modulate between offhand harmonies and spontaneous hoots and hollers. Enthusiastic strumming takes the place of fixed melodies. And the stash of electronics under the back steps adds to the good-natured chaos.
"Sung Tongs" doesn't really have structured songs per se, but its looped, repetitive phrases and inherent sweetness push it closer to pop music than any of the group's previous, noisier, records. The tentative melodic lines of "The Softest Voice" float amid vocals that have a tender innocence akin to a children's choir.
Both Four Tet and Matmos have recently toyed with a fusion of folk and electronica; "Sung Tongs" plays with the same combination, but seems more organic and less predictable. The acoustic guitars and hand-held percussion of "Winter Love" push forward with the momentum of an anthemic folk song. "Sweet Road" layers snippets of spoken samples with picking worthy of bluegrass. Animal Collective seem to be reveling in an almost adolescent rediscovery of music, and as a result "Sung Tongs" sounds like little else in music at the moment. Fluke or sheer genius?