Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion Review

Everything was as it should have been a few days ago. 2009 was just an empty cultural vessel waiting to be filled and the ghosts of last year’s music players, end of year lists and conversational exchanges were still hanging around, waiting to be replaced. It could have been another predictably desolate January, but then Animal Collective had to go ahead and ruin it by releasing their “best recorded album.” Just as the usual seasonal torpor descended upon us, the band effectively pressed a ctrl/alt/del button on our wintertime psyches by delivering one of the best albums of 2009, and long before anyone else had a chance. Now the bleak winter visions don’t look so bad and the cold doesn’t get to your bones as much as it should when your finger presses repeat on your listening device, again and again and again…
Merriweather Post Pavilion is a ridiculously euphoric album, full of Animal Collective’s signature sonic techniques. The tribal rhythms, the choral chants and the bubbling background noises are all still bumping into one another in joyous ways, but the crunching dissonance, elongated passages and bleating yelps of old have evaporated to present a new streamlined, almost pop version of the band. As Strawberry Jam revealed in places and last year’s live shows explicitly confirmed, they’ve now ditched the freak-folk and embraced electronic psychedelia, and on Merriweather Post Pavilion they’ve reaped the benefits by melding the primal pulse-quickening excitement of dance music to the warmth of emotional connection and the exhilaration of just being alive.
The low-end bass may manipulate rising heartbeats and the constant peaking of the repeated song climaxes may mimic house music’s obvious ecstatic amphetamine based mores, but the content of the songs themselves manage to belie the traditions of the dance music form by infusing a very real sense of excitement into the listening experience by addressing the joy of sensation, physical satisfaction and even out of body experiences. Avey Tare sings about watching dancers, walking around town and wanting to “leave my body, just for a while,” whereas Panda Bear advocates domestic security, doing what his body wants to and asks confusingly if he is “really all the things that are outside of me?”
For many of the contrary appreciators of Animal Collective who still hold Sung Tongs up as the pivotal ground zero of the band’s career, Merriweather Post Pavilion will seem like a disappointing commercial realignment of a cherished experimental band. But despite the absence of the familiar baying cacophonies that used to typify the Animal Collective sound and the subsequent electronic re-shaping of their musical identity, Merriweather Post Pavilion is still a remarkably unique album and one that could have only come from this band. Not a single song feels out of place or lacks the exhilarating incantation of the shared vocals and the songs are sequenced perfectly together with detailed textures that increase the infectious joy of listening to tracks like, “My Girls”, “Brother Sport” and “Summertime Clothes” continuously in a loop, and if that is your bent you won’t want Merriweather Post Pavilion to ever stop playing between your ears.

Animal Collective – My Girls
Animal Collective – Brothersport
Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes

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