Review Summary: MPP might be awash in the band's signature wall-of-sound production, hazy vocal melodies, and psych-pop hooks but it has a consistency and upfront manner that their previous efforts have strayed from.
Animal Collective have always been a faceless band. The media often mentions Avey Tare and Panda Bear as evolving, creative forces but its hard to tell where one's influence meets the other's restraint. Even their 2007 side projects did little to clear up where the divide resides not to mention if the other members have any weight at all. With Merriweather Post Pavillion, the curtain has been pulled back far enough so that we finally can at the very least see a silhouette; even Panda Bear's Young Prayer didn't feel so revealing. The group is still more of a gathering of sound magicians than honest-to-goodness songwriters, but that's the mystique that has always kept this band together.
MPP might be awash in the band's signature wall-of-sound production, hazy vocal melodies, and psych-pop hooks but it has a consistency and upfront manner that their previous efforts have strayed from. I wouldn't call MPP the band's defining statement, since AC are a group that has always strayed from absolutes and this album is no different. "In the Flowers" sounds like the Sigur Ros that "Gobbligook" teased us with, "My Girls" is Panda Bear's most blatant and best Beach Boys nod, "Lion in a Coma" must've escaped from one of Matthew Adam Hart's (from The Russian Futurists) dreams, and "Brother Sport" sounds like a tug-of-war between Cut Copy and El Guincho. If MPP has any consistent themes, it's in the details and whatever vague meta-concepts the listener applies to it (if one must).
In more ways than one, Avey Tare's lyrics paint MPP as the audible equivalent to Gus Van Sant's film Paranoid Park. Both of these artists have given us a window into teenage wonder and disillusion through an infant-like consciousness that lacks the proper human perception to make sense of the images and sounds he's surrounded by. MPP might be a bongload-friendly pop album to phase-out to, but one would easily miss Tare's insight that is essential to the overall experience. AC's songs have always dealt with childhood and wonder which gives the band a unique edge, but MPP is the first album that highlight's Tare's lyricism and gives the band a much more human connection that is perfectly backed by their more relaxed brand of eccentric pop. It often brings the band closer to My Bloody Valentine's 91' favorite, as the lyrics compliment or juxtapose the dreamlike surroundings rewarding those who desire to dig a bit deeper.
Writing about Animal Collective is always an endeavor that can only end up in failure. There is no right or wrong way in describing the experience of an AC album, as the music is always too dense and alien to fit within the confines of familiar connections or logical explanation. One could stoop so low as to describe album highlight, "Brother Sport", as Cut Copy doing reggaeton but they'd be missing everything in between, and Animal Collective have always been a band about the "in between". Many will continue to sing the praises of the album's transcendent verses and memorable pop choruses, but it's the fact that they retained their alien, faceless nature that makes MPP a marvel. Like an Animal Collective show, MPP often losses you in the frantic crowd, leaving you with only a blurred view of whoever is on stage and only the slightest idea of what instruments they used to create this voodoo. Certainly, not a laptop running Pro Tools!
I didn't get into it in my review, but I don't really agree with the consensus that this is Animal Collective's definitive album. Its good, and you can say its the best, but it feels like they did something different and succeeded at it. I don't agree that this is Animal Collective taken to the next level. I'd almost call them a different band. Anyone hearing this first will find Sung Tongs a shock to the system.
I can much more agree with this rating.. I love this band dearly and their heavily intense older noise, in my eyes, can never be matched in their more modern form.
The first and last songs on here were very inviting to listen the full way through, and it was surprising to recognize a lot of tracks as, what I suppose are "finished drafts" from a 2007 live NC set I've heard a couple times. These "undeveloped" live songs had an older feel in progression and background noise, as well as sported similar names as the final album versions. The sound quality was fairly good apart from the overshadowing audience but nonetheless, to me, the more odd and psychedelic live versions of the songs sounded better.
Campfire Songs, Here Comes The Indian and Spirit They've Gone.. are all modern experimental noise classics in my book. They upped the ante with Feels and that was a beautiful album as well.. It's very hard to simply ignore the effort in this album as a whole, so I shall continue to give Merriweather a listen. Very accurate summary and
Thank you for not giving another 5 star review. I find this album to be, along with Strawberry Jam, too overproduced for my taste. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more...
I much prefer the likes of Campfire Songs, Sung Tongs, and Feels.
I appreciate, however, the fact that Animal Collective continues to strive forward with their sound - that's one good thing I can say about this album. But these days there's more and more bands influenced by either the same or similar influences or rather by Animal Collective themselves.
I find the likes of The Acorn and El Guincho to be more enjoyable as well as more LISTENABLE than this particular release. And to me, LISTENABILITY means an awful lot.
But as much as I rag on this album, I believe I will still give it a 3.5 just as you did. :P
Paranoid Park is such a brilliant film. I wish Gus Van Sandt was a more consistent filmmaker, he would probably be my favourite contemporary director. unfortunately for every Paranoid Park, you get a Gerry (I don't care what people seem to think it means, the film is just plain ass boring and pretentious). Thus, the nod goes to Danny Boyle.
I listened to My Girls, probably the first time I've ever gotten through an entire Animal Collective song without having to turn it off from being annoyed. I might check the rest of this out.