The Confidence of Experience and the Bravery of Forward Thinking
When a band as immediately frustrating as it is rewarding comes along, it gives the rest of the world something to think about. Since their formation at the turn of the millennium Animal Collective have, in a passive listen, been described as a bit of a racket. However, patience with their music leads to endless rewards. On 2005’s Feels and 2007’s Strawberry Jam, AC made accessible their predominantly experimental niche carved out previously by Here Comes the Indian, Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished/Danse Manatee and Sung Tongs. On Merriweather Post Pavilion, such explorations are unified harmoniously under a single stunning banner.
Animal Collective’s approach amalgamates airy field recordings, heavenly instrumentals, rhythms likened more to world music than conventional pop, sustained drones and vexing blasts of noise in well-constructed psychedelia. The rippling synths in “Bluish” that rest on the heartbeat of a bass drum conjure feelings of napping on a floating raft in the sun while a timeless sentiment, “I’m getting lost in your curls,” captures an innocent romanticism to do Brian Wilson proud.
Strategically placed in the center of Merriweather, “Bluish” is the perfect valley for the album’s two sonic peaks, “My Girls” and “Brother Sport.” An extension of the climax of frenetic drums and sun-drenched melody in the opener “In the Flowers,” “My Girls” begins with twinkling synths and blooms into a stomping electro-pop gem replete with handclaps and deep bass, surrounded by swooping vocal harmonies. “Brother Sport” closes the album with an energetic Afrobeat-meets-samba tempo immersed in a flurry of effervescent synth arpeggios and harmonic flashes as Panda Bear buzzes, “Until fully grown / You got a real good shot / Won’t help to hold inside.”
Of course, the extremes aren’t as effacious without the intricate system of subtleties permeating the rest of the album: the aggressive gallop of “Summertime Clothes,” the sparkly and sparse “Daily Routine,” the graceful “Lion in a Coma.” From top to bottom, the forward-looking Merriweather Post Pavilion exudes Animal Collective’s confidence in knowing full well where they’ve been, in such a shimmering package that some have already hyped it as the best album of 2009. Even with more than 11 months to go, the accolade may just fit.