Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Release Date: 01/20/09
Genre: Psychedelic, Electronic, Dream pop

After discovering Strawberry Jam, I downloaded a podcast from NPR where AC played a full concerts and it's from Bob Bolin that I paraphrased the line, "This band is like ecstasy for listeners," but I was disappointed when I couldn't find a studio recording of Dreamer (now know as In The Flowers) and Bearhug (now known as Summertime Clothes). So yeah, I was aware of the hype in the blogosphere, but I just wanted to hear a few songs.

Review: So the word 'accessible' is gonna be thrown a lot. It doesn't feel like 54 minutes have pass once the last song finishes and their freak-folkish nature is almost nonexistent so those wild and chaotic moments won't detour people that can't stand the explosives noises. MPP sounds like a safe album on paper, but they aren't trying to be mainstream. They are 3 childhood friends (Deakin is on hiatus) who enjoy making music for themselves. Likewise, they are one of a few bands that I can say to have an unique sound, although they keep evolving.

The beginning of "In The Flowers" reminded me of Panda Bear's solo stuff and I almost expected to hear, " try...." but a robotic "I'm a dancer" echos with some squishy stomp. The music seems to be spinning in circle just waiting for something. The best part has to be, "If I could just leave my body for a night," and then the song just let's go of everything as a ray of magic lights blasts down. Lots of irregular sounds, lots of bass. That feeling the first time is jaw dropping. Then it calms down.

"My Girls" follows with a tingly sensation that stays the entire song and the two vocalist duke it out, but they never cross paths. It's really cool how they harmonies without sounding alike. The lyrics here are pretty repetitive, which is their style, but the progression the song takes almost turns it into an instrumental song. I get the point that it's about fatherhood, but I also want "four walls and an adobe stabs." What does that even mean? Their lyrics mean something, but the music seems to immerse the listener, the lyrics feel like a rhythm. I love the layering and the extra handclap replacing that missing bass beat.

"Also Frightened" took some time for me because the sound is a messy collage, but towards the middle, it's easier to hear the patterns and that whole "Are you also frightened?" repeating as the vocals get more and more intense. Feels good man. The bass here is strong again, but as you get into other parts of the album, the songs tend to feel like they drift forever into space, this one to me feels more in that traditional AC campfire sound, until the 'frightened' part, then the sound almost gets layered under some bubbles.

The fourth song, "Summertime Clothes" was my most anticipated track. The only thing I miss from the live version is that scream after the line, "Don't cool of, I like your warmth." But whatever, the studio version is highly addictive and it's very playful and it's hard to not get caught up with the chorus, "I want to walk around with you!" This is their most folkish song, but with careful ears, there's so many sounds they have that just swirl that only headphones could pick up. So as a music junkie, finding those new things with each listen is an experience. "when the sun goes down we'll go out again (x16)."

"Daily Routine" starts with a synth that finds itself burping and when the vocals come, it seems to be following the voices. For the first half, it's like a new wave song with the pounding industrial beat. The second half almost stops as if they ran out of music, so the vocals have to make with what's left on the table. It's the only time on the album where the music gets drawn out, but again, they never feel like a bore. More spooky in a goodbye way.

"Bluish" is probably the prettiest song AC has ever done. The landscape sounds very much like their latest EP, lush-ish and under-watery. I love that keyboard intro. There's this gentle back and forth motion in the sound and Avey's voice sound the softest I can ever remember. Lots of textures happening and the melodies are very welcomed. No one really gets sad from an AC song, but after everything they've done in making me smile, "Bluish" is a ballad that sorta touched my heart. The extra samples they use made the song have this boiling butterfly in your tummy feeling.

"Guys Eyes" didn't click for me at first, but it soon became one of my favorites. Again, this is another song that uses very little lyrics, but the layering of each phases pile on top of each other til it leaks out and buzz. Panda's a pretty boy and Avey's less audible and I'm sure you're sick of me saying it, but the harmonies of the two are so perfect and when they finally come together to sing the same lines, it hits home.

"Taste" reduces itself back to a more grounded song. It doesn't have that underwater feel, but the song is fluid in how it it doesn't have a strong foundation. In the background, there's a nintendo-ish fairy sound that seems to circle the song.

The jungle sounding "Lion in a Coma" uses a didgeridoo to make things interesting and it's the second most upbeat track. The vocals are faster and the words seem to blur or blend into one another, on purposes of course. The beats are all over the place. It gets ridiculous towards the end as if he were out of control, then he finishes with the line, "Lion in a coma, Lion in a coma/don't keep lying in a coma.." Cheap wordplay, but it fits.

On its own, "No More Runnin'" is a bit dreamy so it's hard to get caught in, but the album sorta trains the mind to get into a trance so this song is a nice change of pace. Feels like the samples use are nighttime sounds with waves of batman's cave, so the tempo is down and the mood is chilly, haunting. A page from the Water Curses EP.

The closer, "Brothersport" is one giant rave song. Almost broken into three parts, each catchy as it moves on. The first with Panda singing a burst of 3-4 syllables, "open up your/let that 'oh'" with variations down the way. Once this tropical roots intro builds, the two vocalist harmonies like they knew this was their final game. The second part is around 1:30, once the vocals fade, all you hear is a siren 'woot' sound that turns the track into a night club. "MATT." and it becomes less complex only for it to speed into that final leg of the song. Yes the lyrics repeat a lot, but so do many pop bands who repeat the same chords. The vocals are another means of creating a rhythm.

So for all the hype and praised, this is well deserved and whoever is reading this, I'm sure I'm over hyping it for you. Whatever idea you have of Animal Collective, get rid of it and just immerse yourself into the journey. The album cover is pretty accurate. It's trippy, but who cares. Music doesn't always have to pierce your armor. You won't see a basic formula or catchy chorus, but this is music at it's highly form of art.

Summary: This is their most consistent and accessible album to date. Liza called me a hypocrite for already declaring this as my AotY, but surely, if 2009 has 2 or 3 albums that can top this, it's gonna be a good year for music. Everyone in the internet world is comparing it to Pet Sounds, but this is an album only AC could have made and I can't see it being release other than 2009. There are too many great songs here that manage to stay different, but makes sense within the universe AC have created. If you don't trust my taste in music, whatever, but this is the stuff your kids will be asking you about.

Key Tracks: My Girls, Bluish, Brothersport
Rating: 10/10

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