Listening to “Floridada,” the first single from Animal Collective’s forthcoming “Painting With,” is an engrossing experience, not unlike wading into an ocean rolling and writhing with waves.
Like any song by Animal Collective, the many layers take a couple listens to arrange themselves between your ears in a way that makes sense. (If you have the patience to hit ‘repeat.’) Then each layer, one at a time, wedges itself deeply inside the mind. The first listen, Avey Tare’s tenor rings out; the second, Panda Bear’s angelic responses to Avey’s calls stick with you.
This song is a return to the call and response format of “Merriweather Post Pavilion” – yada yada yada. What I want to talk about is the heart of the matter: Floridada itself.
Avey Tare told Newsweek the song’s inspiration is drawn from the interminable shit that is heaped on Florida and its residents daily by its countrymen. He spent summers near the Gulf of Mexico as a kid, and he DJ’d at this year’s Art Basel in Miami. He gets it: Florida is unlike other states in America because of the dangerous lure of its natural beauty. Perhaps it’s not home to the most innovation and ingenuity per square mile, but there is a certain magic here.
When I stand at the edge of the ocean, allowing the waves to caress the tops of my feet, I enter a special head space in which nothing else exists. I continue, wading deeper and eventually swimming into the horizon as far as my fear lets me. I pause to rest, and the slight difference in the blue of each wave consumes me. The lapping of the waves against my shoulders encloses me in a cocoon.
When I turn on “Floridada,” the crescendo of a chugging, surf rock drum beat draws me in past my knees. The splashy synth line sounds textured and soaking wet, and somehow doing the twist, or that move when you hold your nose and wave your hand around, just seems natural. All other thoughts cease when the pre-chorus melody begins; Avey and Panda’s voices naturally bleed into each other like the back-and-forth of waves forever crashing and receding on the shore. In the chorus, a more dissonant, dizzying synth line hits just one beat behind each note Avey sings, and I’m completely underwater, twirling around like a seal.
Listening to this song makes you feel on top of the fucking world because these guys have somehow bottled that pure heart happiness that we learned as sunshine babies, playing outside in the sand, running under swaying palm branches. We learned that in some places, time doesn’t tick quite as quickly. The days are long under the sunny, cloudless sky, and we don’t rush to our next destination. There is also a heavy helping of poppy cheesiness to this song which smacks of the Disney-fied theme park culture of central Florida.
I only mentioned danger earlier because, after visiting places like Chicago or New York City, I was struck by the lack of reality in my home state. When you’re shuffling through a freezing, bustling city street, the misery and claustrophobia of the masses causes frequent doubt: everyone’s rushing off to somewhere. Am I barreling towards where I need to be? Am I running away from anything or anyone? What exactly am I doing with my life?
That isn’t how it feels to walk next to the ocean, or to listen to this song. It’s more like visiting a really old, wise person who tells you to be patient, who uses phrases like “all in due time,” who advises you to just dance your heart out right now, and when it’s done and your breathing returns to its normal pace, everything’s going to be just fine.
“What’s the best shore/ Seen from a boat/ Miniature heads that/ Color the shore line/ If you could rest/ A minute to tell / Get me some grass/ Iridescent shells/ I know there’s a nest/ Fit with a hatch / Sunset a glowin’/ Makes us all sweaty”
If the state tourism board doesn’t try to work out a deal for a campaign with this song, they missed the boat.