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Animal Collective

by Archives January 13, 2009

In the past, critics and fans alike would have never mentioned the words “dance floor” and “Animal Collective” in the same sentence.
The indie intelligentsia would be more likely to confer on the group’s experimental and improvised style, wax music-nerding about time signature changes and polyrhythms. Although it’s doubtful you’ll hear an Animal Collective song at your next club-outing, it’s quite clear Merriweather Post Pavilion is the most accessible and pop of their oeuvre.
All of the quirks that make the group so indelible are in plain view on Merriweather, this time balanced with catchy choruses and ardent lyrics. On songs like “My Girls” and “Bluish,” the group makes strong claims for accessibility; the former is happily earnest, the latter curiously saccharine.
“Brothersport,” also one of the more approachable tracks, adopts pulsating African tribal rhythms that are less organic than electronic – but it works. Moving along briskly at around 130 beats-per-minute, the song builds on crescendos of bouncy organ riffs and harmonized vocals, before abruptly ending after almost six minutes.
“Guy’s Eyes” is a palatable tune showcasing Noah Lennox’s (Panda Bear) continued obsession with Beach Boys-inspired harmonies, draped in ridiculous amounts of reverb. The song’s only downfall is its first half, propelled by a stop/start rhythm of bass-stabs and rim shot flicks, ultimately sounding a bit crowded.
Another Panda Bear-dominated track, “Daily Routine,” is easily the album’s best song. On the second half he achingly sings, “Just a sec more in my bed,” repeating the phrase numerous times, washed in a drowsy echo – the sonic equivalent to coming in-and-out-of consciousness, before reaching for the snooze-button.
Animal Collective have always been hard to pin-down, with significant shifts in style, from release-to-release. On Merriweather, they enlisted the help of producer Ben Allen, who is known for manning the boards for Gnarls Barkley (St. Elsewhere), bringing a hip-hop aesthetic to the table.
Listening to Merriweather on shitty laptop speakers means potentially missing all of Allen’s brilliant mixing techniques. On a good sound system this record really comes to life -highlighting Avey Tare (David Portner) and Panda Bear’s inspired vocal performances, and Geologist’s (Brian Weitz) “trippy” psychedelic sample collages.
This album will surely go down as one of the best of 2009. Even though a great deal of releases in the indie milieu suffer from being over-hyped and under-achieving, such is not the case here.
Animal Collective have managed to create forward-thinking experimental music that broaches pop-sensibilities with relative ease. It somehow manages to live up to all the hype, and appeals more and more after each listen. Time will tell just how “accessible” Merriweather is, but don’t expect to hear it during a cheesy montage on House or Grey’s Anatomy any time soon.

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