Merriweather Post Pavilion
Release Date: January 6, 2009 (Vinyl)
January 20, 2009 (CD)
Animal Collective have been indie darlings for a majority of the decade, traipsing through many experimental fields without taking up permanent residence in any of them. To encapsulate the band in a pithy few words would be an injustice, as each of their albums consistently finds the band reinventing and tweaking how songs sound while still maintaining their undeniable uniqueness. Merriweather Post Pavilion, their incredibly hyped follow-up to 2007’s stunning Strawberry Jam, seems to mesh all of their core elements together into a cohesive, intensely immersing experience.
The aforementioned hype began when two tracks, “Brother Sport” and “My Girls”, leaked late in 2008. The songs were both stunningly crafted sonic wonderlands, leaving many fans yearning for more. Needless to say, Pavilion provides the goods and thrusts the listener into a truly psychedelic world. Most of all, each song is irresistibly poppy without sounding like anything close to a retread of the endless, derivative pop songs before it. Layered and varied, each song leaves its own indelible impression begging to be listened to time and time again. Opener “In the Flowers” has a lulling, psychedelic start reminiscent of Pink Floyd, yet the song continues with a brooding sense of climax. Indeed, lead singer Avey Tare talks about wanting to wildly dance with a girl he misses sorely, and as the title implies, the song explodes into a frenzied euphoria, evoking that very imagery in a big field somewhere alone. However, it is only a dream and not a reality, and the bombast soon ceases. “My Girls” begins with a shimmering fragility that drives forward on the strength of marvelous melody, booming bass, harmonious handclaps, and a spine-tingling scream to beautifully punctuate the chorus about only wanting the simple things in life (“I don’t mean / To seem like I care about material things / Like a social status / I just want / Four walls and adobe slabs for my girls.”) The album rolls on through, with track after track of oddly satisfying electro-pop gems. “Summertime Clothes” starts off with a stressful sound, as the narrator is suffering from the heat of the summer. However, the greatness seeps through, as the painfully simple “I want to walk around with you” chorus kicks in amid the poppy paradise suddenly synthesized. The frivolous feel of “Lion in a Coma” is inescapable, with a bouncy Jew’s harp beat and Avey Tare’s melodic vocals. In fact, Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s wonderful voices both complement and feed off of each other, further adding to the psychedelic pop aesthetic of the album. They master melody so well that they sound like The Beach Boys at times. The album concludes with a pinnacle poppy treat, “Brother Sport”, which, ahem, sports an Afro-tinged beat and sugary yet sonic synths. The song deals with Panda Bear’s father passing away, as he tries to console his brother Matt. The song concludes on the perfect pop note, as the words are repeated ad nauseum behind the on-again-off-again beat.
The album does little wrong, but the rather low moments of the album just further accentuate the numerous majestic highs. Animal Collective create amazing, diverse atmospheres with each of their songs, which is only aided by the matured lyrics and harmonious crooning of Avey Tare and Panda Bear. So much hype surrounded this album that it has already been called “The Best Album of 2009” and “This Generation’s Pet Sounds.” While it would be disingenuous to bestow either of those titles to this album so prematurely, Merriweather Post Pavilion is certainly a constantly thrilling, highly engaging experience from beginning to end.
My Girls (Live at the Hove Festival, Norway)