Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Cover Artwork)

Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)


No matter what genre you want to call them -- freak folk, avant-garde psychedelia, Pitchfork Police Masturbatory Fodder -- Animal Collective's ear for beautiful pop buried underneath distortion and experimentalism is undeniable to even the hardest critic. The band's eighth LP, Merriweather Post Pavilion, named after an outdoor music venue in Maryland that band members have been frequenting since their youth, shows a band restlessly refusing to leave their peak. After the well-received LPs Sung Tongs, Feels and Strawberry Jam, AC have truly honed the weird art they make without sounding stale or like they're going through the motions.

MPP successfully balances the tight rope of standout tracks and overall cohesive unity. A good portion of the songs recall the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds on sonic overdrive. The excellent lead single, "My Girls" is their catchiest song since "Grass," but unlike the Beach Boys it will most likely exist outside of radio. The most obvious Beach Boys emulation is "Guys Eyes," which features the similar lush harmonies twisted into AC's own with disorienting tribal layers. Not to mention, I don't think the Beach Boys had any songs about masturbating (last mention of self-pleasure, I swear).

There's less distinctive guitar on the record than in the past; in its place are jangly loops and a vast amount of instruments used to create the overall musical landscape; a didgeridoo in "Lion in a Coma" is perhaps the distinct one on the record.

Despite every song being about the same length (roughly five minutes), they all progress organically. My only complaint is that "Daily Routine" runs too long, and I think the average listener may not be able to listen to it all the way through its 54-minute running length frequently. But when trying to pick out a track that was disposable, I couldn't do it. Every track has an interesting hook and like a great movie has to be revisited a few times to get every element.

The album winds down with the dreamy and sedated "No More Runnin'"; the welcomed change of pace is a relatively calm, tropical number that evokes flowing water. The feeling is only temporary as the frenzied "Brother Sport" closes the record. An unabashed rave number, it weaves in and out of shakers, techno sirens, electronic keys and thudding bass and unsurprisingly has the fastest tempo of the record.

A lot of people are saying this is their dance record, but Animal Collective are simply perfecting and tweaking their well-known sound and they come off as a little more mature than they have in the past. The punks may decry it as hyperbole, but take note: The first great record of 2009 has been unleashed.