With its geographically scattered members residing in New York, Portugal and Washington, D.C., it was only a matter of time before this Collective’s call-of-the-wild twee sprees began to reflect an acute case of separation anxiety, not to mention the creeping suspicion that the gang’s whole reliving-childhood theme might be growing stale. Strawberry Jam flips the ponderous, bellybutton-lint harvesting of 2005’s Feels for suitably oblique real talk and rousingly luminescent synthesizer latticework. Never before have Avey Tare’s yelps and shrieks felt so anguished, so harsh, so Cobain. When, on the harried “Fireworks,” he asks “What’s the day?/What you doing?/How’s your mood in that song?” and admits “I’m only all I see sometimes,” it scans more sincerely than joyous nonsense about winning rabbits. The foursome frolics a bit: The freon-spritz shiver of “#1” and the up-with-cohabitation Malkmus-tude of “Peacebone” are good examples. But reverie and reality intersect on “Unsolved Mysteries,” as some day-glo glue-huffery about Jack the Ripper drifts into hazy contemplation of nostalgia’s true value.
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