I'm fifteen years old, and I have an older brother with friends that listen to much more music than me. One of these friends passed on a burned copy of Animal Collective's Feels that occupied my brother's car stereo for a time. I knew they were doing something ineffectively called "weird," but I felt something different. The voices behind 'Did You See The Words' were more therapeutic than any other pop music I had digested. There was a transformation involved in the detached samples and bizarre romantic excursions that Avey Tare took me through. I sat down to try and figure out the chords to 'Banshee Beat', scratching my head every time I thought I was getting close to learning to play it. Even something as functional as guitar chords became complicated with Feels. There's a sonic blah of information on each track that's immensely difficult to pinpoint to this day.

Shortly after those first experiences, I began recreationally smoking weed with friends. High school was difficult, and being high allowed for me to go to a place where I wasn't myself for a little while. We listened to Feels dozens of times in various cars, mapping the least traveled roads around central Illinois. I felt a connection with my friends of the time regardless of how lasting our relationships would end up becoming. When I was apart from them, I could walk alone at night and feel their kinship through Feels. In the candy wrapping sounds of 'Banshee Beat', I heard the gas station snacks we would eat in backseats. As Avey pontificated on swimming pools, I envisioned the local pool where we would wander about looking to break in and break rules to upset the banal rhythms of school. I thought about a buddy I had marching band with. We would discuss the idea of turning 'The Purple Bottle' into a marching show, another form of escape from our perfunctory extracurriculars. Alone, I would beat the crap out of my brother's drum kit while listening to the song, upright and ignoring the kick drum like Panda Bear would, liberating myself from the drum throne. I counted the beat of the snare clicks and hits, and perfectly imitated the recorded performance of 'The Purple Bottle', its syncopated rhythms matching the beat of my heart when meeting someone new.

In 2007, Strawberry Jam was released, and I began spending time with friends that were fit for lasting relationships. We practiced the same rituals with smoking and listening to music, trading the 60s-era trippiness of Feels for Strawberry Jam's poppy, staccato structures. That record, my #1 of the year, still represents a more communal feeling with my companions. Conversely, I did the bulk of my listening to Feels on my own, simply remembering company. In this way, Feels belonged to solitude. I maintained it as my preferred Animal Collective release even though I loved each of their releases in different ways.

In college, the effects of being high were no longer fun. I was approaching adulthood, and shedding the skin of reality with drug use felt childlike for head-in-the-clouds, twenty-year-old me. The haze of teenage confusion faded, and my life and personality took on sharper corners and ideas about myself that I was learning to accept, piece by piece. Feels, among AnCo's other releases, is the perfect album for these learning experiences. As Avey Tare questions whether or not elderly couples still kiss and hug, I questioned the ways in which the older versions of myself would hold on to the younger ones. I cook most of my meals myself ('Daffy Duck'), I prefer to discuss music and emotions ('The Purple Bottle'), and I feel a connection with nature that gets its lines blurred by the memories of listening to Animal Collective and my own warping mental processes ('Bees'). It's these parallels that define the best art. With such cosmically ambiguous music and sequencing, Feels wraps itself around your life. It isn't a blank slate. It's a catalyst that latches onto whatever you're doing or feeling and blots out greater reality. It's perfect for exercising, meditating, and mindful living. It's still the sprawl of 'Banshee Beat' that makes me realize the beauty or darkness of what's immediately in front of me.

As life grew less abstract in my mid-twenties, the music of Animal Collective grew a little less immersive, but no less essential to my past lives. I tell people that Feels is still my record, almost everyone clinging to the more bombastic choices of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Strawberry Jam. I've had my share of experiences singing along to 'Fireworks', alone on a beach in Costa Rica in 2012, imagining I was back home with my headphones. But, the conscious attitudes of AnCo's work post-Feels is made for holding company. The subconscious explored on Feels resonates through the piecemeal buildups of 'Daffy Duck'. Avey Tare didn't know exactly what he wanted to say, so he resolved himself to reveal a litany of desires like a "happy farm with happy goats and sheep" - the cheesy-turned-honest expressions of a mind on full display. These are dialogues with the self.

Feels has been out of print on vinyl for several years, but I recently found one of those first pressings. As I scanned the wax that was identifiable based solely on my knowledge of the songs, I read along to find that the band used an intentionally detuned piano for many of the loops. Suddenly, my whole history with the record was put into perspective. I couldn't quite play it on guitar in my parents' basement because it was actually impossible in standard tuning. The album is so seminal and specific unto itself, it can't even be replicated. Though I blissfully lost my mind seeing the band revisit 'Did You See The Words' on the last tour, I knew something wasn't quite the same as the record. In this way, it must be nostalgic for the band as well, representing an untouched moment in 2005 where indie rock wasn't quite as microscopically observed. Fortunately for me, I was young and impressionable enough to absorb Feels for everything its title would suggest. After all, ten years easily feels like ten decades when you're lost in the fog of 'Loch Raven'. Feels never quits on me because it's a record that works in conjunction with reality and coming of age. It represents a kinship between listener and artist that's difficult to find not just among Animal Collective's contemporaries, but among popular music as a whole.

Feels was released on October 18th, 2005.