Animal Collective's ascent to the highest planes of indie-rock stardom is almost impossible to fathom for those who've been following them since their humble beginnings as pagan Baltimore-based noiseniks, and validating as hell for grumpy music critic types who bemoan the state of contemporary pop music. As with any great band, fans divide themselves by which phase represents the band's peak: I personally reckon they never topped the surrealistic changeling folk of 2004's Sung Tongs, the crucial bridge between their freaky shriek-y early work and their latter-day arena-conquering electro-hymns. "Who Could Catch a Rabbit?," the second track off that album, represents everything that makes Animal Collective such a distinctly addictive group: by turns irritating, radiant, nonsensical, and catchy as a school bus sing-along, with a percussion track that sounds like a thousand clocks winding themselves up, "Rabbit" is uncut, economical brilliance at just over two minutes.

Anyhow, Panda Bear, one of AC's two principal songwriters, has a new solo album dropping tomorrow, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, and it's getting pretty decent reviews. Having seen him live this summer, I was expecting something a bit heavier and more up-tempo, but the blend of '90s-era rap breaks and vitamin-D-heavy surf dude harmonies is a refreshing blast of summertime nostalgia for our fart-fog-laden winter doldrums. Here's "Boys Latin," probably the best track off Reaper, along with its stereotypically trippy music video: