The seeds planted by the early No Age singles and the less inspired Animal Collective material have officially taken root, and the results are just about the most uninspired music I’ve heard all year. If Gauntlet Hair were a Weird Al-style parody of the most abrasive indie rock subtrends of the past couple of years (soaring high-pitched vocals, ham-fisted attempts at electronic parts, sub-subpar "tropical" influences, chillwave), it would be a pretty masterful cultural prank. Instead, what we’re left with is an album that sounds like it came out of a weekend spent asking a room full of marketing executives what they’d most like to hear in a rock record.
There will always be pretty large niche for bands this shamelessly derivative of the five or six most popular bands of the moment, so Gauntlet Hair can’t be blamed for a certain degree of giving the public what they want. There’s just something so lazy and cynical about the way that they’re doing it, walking across the current musical landscape avoiding anything but the most well-worn path imaginable. It’s difficult to enjoy Gauntlet Hair on the level one might enjoy a genre-exercise punk band, because formal novelty is part of what makes Gauntlet Hair’s genre worthwhile. There’s none of the self-baring experimentalism that made Gauntlet Hair’s predecessors so striking, just a whole lot of reverb’d falsetto over cymbal wash. There’s no actual experimentation to be found in Gauntlet Hair, just a couple of guys performing soulless exercises in what they’ve supposed "experimental pop music" sounds like in 2011.
Brushing aside the fact that Gauntlet Hair’s major influences have been known to cram more new ideas into one song than exist on this entire LP, there is literally nothing on Gauntlet Hair that hasn’t been done better by more respectable second-order bands like Tonstartssbandht or Ganglians. Where do we go from here? There’s a decent metaphor to be made about Gauntlet Hair and the quality lost when you copy a copy of something, but that’s an observation that’s been made a thousand times before and wasn’t particularly incisive to begin with. Which is, in turn, an even better metaphor for Gauntlet Hair.