For his first solo record Down There, Animal Collective cofounder Dave Portner churned out a set of songs that, like his main project, meet at the collision of tuneful and ambient. “Oliver Twist,” one of the album’s highlights, might be a perfect example: it’s occasionally got that “sample jockey” element of stacked and layered interpolated pieces, it’s got that wistful droning element that recalls the introductions to the songs on Animal Collective’s last release Fall Be Kind, sometimes the rhythm is hard to find or follow, and sometimes you can feel that foot-tapping beat in your heart and Portner’s endearing, juvenile voice and hum seem to come, unadulterated, from everywhere around you, and it’s hard to think of something that sounds more vulnerable.
“Oliver Twist” is everything likeable about Portner’s solo project and his work with Animal Collective, and everything hateable about both those projects too: there are flashes of beautiful, flawlessly executed tunefulness, and you just want to yell at Portner through your headphones to never, ever, ever cover that up, not for one second. No matter how cool those electronic squiggles and dialup-connection samples might sound, a voice and lyrics this sweet and vulnerable might be best left to speak for themselves. But maybe that too-much-going-on sound is what makes Portner’s music in all of his projects what it is; maybe the challenge of it is deciding which elements you should try and wrap your head around. Give “Oliver Twist” a listen and see for yourself.