Friends since the second grade, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin (a.k.a. Animal Collective) have been recording tracks together for nearly as long as that, each living in separate time zones, writing individually, yet remaining one of the most intimate acts around. The band has cycled through experimental phases that range from choppy noise to freak-folk to tribal drum escapades, garnering a new army of devout followers with every release. But the Collective’s newest gem, Strawberry Jam, exceeds any experimental expectations–this is pop!

While most of the band’s releases contain hints of pop melodies, Strawberry Jam sees Animal Collective embracing the form’s catchy hooks, à la the Beach Boys (“Desert Oddities” is cited as an influence for the new release), while remaining as genuinely expressive and experimental as ever. Falsetto vocals clash over the clinking of poppy percussion, digital noise paces over guitar squeals, and somehow an album emerges that’s both chaotic and accessible.

Those quick to hate on AC’s “all over the map” style may find themselves in a world of pain, because Strawberry Jam will likely suck anyone into the new pop vortex.

Strawberry Jam is out in September on Domino.

1. Peacebone
2. Unsolved Mysteries
3. Chores
4. For Reverend Green
5. Fireworks
6. #1
7. Winter Wonder Land
8. Cuckoo Cuckoo
9. Derek