Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective

Domino, 2009

http://www.myspace.com/animalcollectivetheband

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/02/2009

Animal Collective’s albums have been a scattershot affair since their debut album, Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. Their most famous albums, Feels and Strawberry Jam, could bring you in with their warm, poppish arrangements, then leave you at the side of the road with some freak folk arrangement that sounded like carnival music done by Mr. Bungle.

Some of those experiments worked, but for those who enjoy a chorus and melody in their music, those detours could be annoying, especially considering the talent in the band. Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) has proven to be a phenomenal pop musician with his solo album Person Pitch. Still, Person Pitch could have sounded like it could have come out in 1967. For those craving a more contemporary sound, you just put up with the band’s wild experimentation for eight albums.

The same can’t be said for their ninth album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. At first listen, all of the elements that make Animal Collective so beloved to their cult base seamlessly converge. There are no “pop” songs and “experimental” songs on Merriweather Post Pavilion, just a collection of infectious, ambitious and blissful tracks.

Bands known for embracing more than one music style have made these “convergence” albums before. U2 merged their desire for an epic statement with their earnestness with The Joshua Tree. Soundgarden merged their heaviness with their love for The Beatles on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Superunknown. And The Clash embraced their love of rockabilly, reggae and punk with London Calling.

All of the above albums were released to the dismay of some longtime fans. And most likely Merriweather Post Pavilion’s embrace of the mainstream may put off some of their hardcore fans. Those fans have reason to worry. If “My Girls” lands on “Gossip Girl,” you can pretty much guarantee the band’s tour is going to be a string of sellout dates, filled with doe-eyed neophytes who have no clue of the depth of this band’s experimentation -- and protective fans who have been obsessively blogging about this band for the better part of this decade.

“My Girls” is one pop masterstroke in Merriweather Post Pavilion. The second masterstroke, “Summertime Clothes” is even more infectious. Building on a climbing synth, Panda Bear and the avant garde-leaning Avery Tare (David Portner) harmonize in a fairly restrained buildup before an exuberant chorus of  “I want to walk around with you” slams you, making you wonder why the hell no other band in recent memory has included this great, simple statement as a chorus.

The two poppiest songs being included in the first half of the album may lead some to believe that it’s front-loaded, leaving some of the more experimental (read: off-putting) tracks toward the end. While there may be some truth to that belief, that doesn’t make the rest of the songs any less solid, they just take more time to sink in.

This disc is not for cynics. The band embodies a lot of stereotypes of the Brooklyn-centered indie style rock music of this decade. The band is known for wearing masks in their photo shoots and most of their fans tend to be of the hippie/hipster variety. One song repeats the line “I’m getting lost in your curls.” In essence, this is a joyous album. If you’re looking for a reason to dislike the album, you’ll probably have no problem finding a fault. However, one unbiased listen of Merriweather Post Pavilion, with the volume cranked, should win even the most hardened of cynics.

There is no “right” place to listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion, but I found a close to perfect place for my first listen. It was a bar/music venue that hosted a listening party. The temperature was hovering in the teens with a nasty wind and the event wasn’t heavily promoted. As a result, the album blared over the soundsystem to about two dozen regulars and Animal Collective fans. Heads bobbed during “Lion In A Coma,” some quietly absorbed “No More Runnin’,” but for the most part, everyone had a smile on their face at some point. At the end of “Brother Sport,” the bartender went over to her MacBook and said “Wanna hear it again?”

Absolutely.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2009 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Domino, and is used for informational purposes only.