Album Review Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion4-5 Stars
This record can win over even the most hardened, cynical indie-kid.
A loop of a robotic voice repeating the phrase ‘You can dance’ greets listeners at the beginning of Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, the band’s ninth release, and easily one of the most anticipated records of 2009 for the indie set. And it’s a mantra that fans should take to heart while listening to the album, which is quite dub-heavy, propulsive, and, indeed, danceable at times. It certainly is the most immediately accessible record from this excellent but often inscrutable band, and has divided listeners and critics already, despite only officially being released on 12th January (the vinyl was available 6th Jan., and the album leaked over Christmas). There is an optimistic tone to this record that draws you in immediately upon first hearing it, and that feeling sticks with the listener. Perhaps it could be a desperate need to latch onto anything remotely ‘sunny’ during these cold winter days, maybe it’s just the fact that this album could easily became the breezy, dreamy soundtrack to a string of idle days. Whatever the case may be, this record can win over even the most hardened, cynical indie-kid with its textured layers of Beach Boys-influenced buoyant pop, bass-driven dub, jumbled psychedelia, and dynamic sound excursions.
‘My Girls’ is as straightforward and coherent a song that Animal Collective has ever released, and is the obvious stand-out to the first side of the record. And while that slight conventionality might vex fans of the bands more experimental earlier work like ‘Sung Tongs’, it’s really hard to deny the appeal of this track, with Panda Bear singing heartfelt lyrics about not caring about superficial things, but still wanting to provide a proper home for his girls. And the band continues the strong start of the record with the bold, innovative ‘Also Frightened’, which is five minutes of pure bliss, despite the unsettling lyrical undertones. Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist are still taking chances musically, albeit slightly smaller ones than earlier in their career, and expanding the sonic parameters that seem to apply to them, and them only.
The second half of the record is a bit more onerous and dense than the slightly more conventional (for Animal Collective, at least) first half. The lyrics become slightly less important and seem to form more of a collage with the music rather than being the focus. It also finds the band toying with the boundaries of sound and structure as much as ever before. The result is a captivating sonic experiment that rewards more upon repeat listens, with pliable songs that provide plenty of depth and spectacle.
‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ is sure to land on many year end Top Ten lists, despite being released so early in 2009. And the band truly deserves any and all of accolades sure to be bestowed upon them and their album, for this record delivers on so many different levels, and lives up to, and some would say even exceeds, the lofty and often preposterous expectations of the blogosphere.
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