At this point there’s a good chance that, if you have the ways and means, you have heard the new, soon-to-be legally released Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavilion. And if you have you are probably really, really digging it. To put it mildly, MPP will be tough to beat come 2009 List Season - it’s another stunner from one of the decade’s most inventive and compelling acts.
On the surface Merriweather Post Pavilion plays out as a similar album to 2007’s Strawberry Jam, though it takes that album’s psyche-rock aesthetic to even further extremes (the notion that this band resembles anything remotely “freak-folk” is long extinct). These songs have denser, more electro-soaked arrangements than prior recordings, and use an abundance of synths, heavily treated electric guitars, and keyboards to fill out its wall of sound. I was also struck by just how rhythmic MPP is without ever being overly drum-heavy - it’s a long way from the organic sounds of Sung Tongs or the looping, acid-fried folk of Feels. The cohesive sonic structuring makes MPP a startlingly fluid listen - songs bleed from one into the next like the continuation of some beautiful dream.
Strawberry Jam was also very Avey Tare heavy album. His harsher, throat-scrapingly raw vocals were used to great effect on songs like “Peacebone“ and “For Reverend Green”, and often gave that album an aura of menace, intended or not. Merriweather Post Pavilion sounds to me like it is dominated, vocally, by Panda Bear. Those heavenly, Brian Wilson-styled harmonies that made Person Pitch so memorable (and 2007’s best album) are all over these songs. That stylistic decision for softer, more harmonic vocals works particularly well within the album’s reoccurring themes of fatherhood, domesticity, and the struggle to overcome limitations to provide for your kids. Though their music has always been described as childlike, on MPP Animal Collective are now singing mature songs about their own children.
There are highlights throughout - actually I can’t think of a weak link here at all. “In The Flowers” is a great album opener, starting off quiet and building slowly to an explosion of sound after the very appropriate line “if I could just leave my body for the night” 2 and a half minutes in. “My Girls”, “Summertime Clothes”, “Bluish”, and “Taste” are all standing out in my head right now as well. It’s pretty safe to say that fans of Person Pitch will find MPP particularly to their liking. Honestly though, if you’re a fan of independent music at all you need to experience Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is the rare album that comes burdened with overwhelming hype that actually exceeds expectation. Quite simply, it’s a great, great album.