Thursday, January 8, 2009

Review: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (* * * * *)

You've probably been able to form your own opinions about Animal Collective's soon-to-be-released Merriweather Post Pavilion as the album leaked several weeks ago. But, for those of you who haven't heard it yet or who look to me for musical guidance and leadership (right...), let me sum the album up right here with a few adjectives; stunning, captivating, essential. Seriously, if you haven't yet, the time to buy into the hype is now. "Merriweather" is an album worth hearing not just because you'll feel out of the loop if you don't, but because you would be missing out on something truly remarkable.

Although not a radical departure from their previous efforts, "Merriweather" has a smoother, more polished feel than even 2007's Strawberry Jam. Less yelling and screaming - more melody and breathtaking vocal harmony, fewer jarring stylistic shifts - more subtle and expansive transitions. I don't mean to make it sound as if the band have stopped innovating, the record still includes plenty of trippy, odd pop moments fans will love (like the Tigger-esque bouncing bass on "Lion in a Coma"); Animal Collective just sound more purposeful and direct this time around. This is also the most engaging and approachable the group have ever sounded, creating a collection of themes and sounds that is much more often inviting than it is alienating.

Album opener, "In the Flowers," has a droning, ambient intro before exploding into a joyous, upbeat celebration with Avey Tare singing lines like "we could be dancing and you'd smile and say 'I love this song'" over scattered percussion and chirping electronics. It's one of many smile-inducing, dance-inspiring moments. Following is another highlight, "My Girls," an explosion of harmony, arpeggio synths, and tribal percussion combined in one of the album's most immediately enjoyable tunes. "Summertime Clothes" and especially "Brothersport," with Panda Bear's arena-sized chanted chorus provide additional instant pop-oriented gratification.

While the more anthematic tracks will likely receive the most attention, "Merriweather" should be recognized for some of its more subtly fantastic moments as well. The gentle, shimmering "Bluish" and the perfectly restrained "No More Runnin" give the album much-needed variety but are also great songs independently, showing Animal Collective's more (for lack of a better word) sensitive side. Elsewhere, "Guys Eyes" builds slowly, adding layer upon layer of vocals and percussion in a psychedelic wall of sound while "Daily Routine" shifts gears from an off-beat electro-pop song into a simple, sonic vocal feature by Avey Tare. I could go on, but I'm running out of tracks. Simply put, it's all great.

I realize I'm only helping to hype an already uber-hyped album, but when it's as good as Merriweather Post Pavilion is (which is to say, spectacular), I can't help but go with the flow. Do yourself a favor and give this one a shot, because this is the kind of groundbreaking, genre-shattering, musical revelation that should be experienced.


OD said...

Waiting for the 20th to hear this album. It sounds awesome.

Check out this live version of "My Girls" from this past summer's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago:

Chris N said...

Thanks for the tune.

I admire your restraint in waiting; you won't be disappointed. I can't wait to get my CD copy.