Animal Collective‘s otherworldly song structures, deconstructed harmonies and tribal rhythms aren’t always met with receptive ears, but there might not be a more progressive band in indie music.

With two of the best-reviewed albums of the year – the band’s new Strawberry Jam and the solo disc by keyboardist Panda Bear, Person Pitch – Animal Collective has established itself as an act wildly separate from the many retro-oriented bands that populate today’s scene.

The sound of the future, the psychedelic band acknowledges, is something they seek.

“That’s kind of always been a goal, to do something that we feel is missing,” says Dave Portner, who goes by the name Avey Tare and is – at least on Strawberry Jam – the closest thing Animal Collective has to a lead singer.

Animal Collective is a group of four twenty-something musicians, all of whom have pseudonyms: Portner, keyboardist and sometimes drummer Noah Lennox (Panda Bear), electronic programmer Brian Weitz (Geologist) and guitarist Josh Dibb (Deakin).

Though its members are free to drop in and out from time to time (Dibb is absent on Strawberry Jam), at the center of Animal Collective is the songwriting and singing duo of Lennox and Portner.

Though both are quiet, even shy off stage, they constitute the angelic and devilish sides of Animal Collective – a duality perhaps best demonstrated by the skeletons dressed in ballet tutus that adorn the stage on their current tour.

All four grew up in Baltimore, where Portner recalls playing makeshift shows in the worst parts of town because there wasn’t a professional venue for indie or punk bands.

“Just an open mind and a love of music is what we all had,” Weitz says of their early bond.

Early on, Animal Collective grew a reputation as a unique concert experience. Operating in reverse of most bands, the group often performs new songs before they’re recorded: the best tour of Strawberry Jam material may have been last year (Animal Collective recently concluded a U.S. tour with two sold-out New York shows, and will embark on a European tour this month).

The masks that Animal Collective wore in early concerts – as well as their videos, pseudonyms and unconventional music – have contributed to a frequent label of “weird.”

“I really don’t like it,” says Lennox. “I feel like it’s kind of a lazy thing to do, just write something off as weird. I feel like it sells it short.”

Animal Collective is already off in a new direction, playing songs of a yet another new variety in concert. The band sounds still unsure of how to describe the latest evolution, but says it’s another step in trying to make electronic sounds organic.

“I’d like to think that we can always do something better,” says Lennox. “The moment where we’re like `That’s the best we got,’ I feel like we’re kind of dead at that point.”