Just as fellow indie-superheroes Grizzly Bear would do later in 2009, Animal Collective finally opened up to fans by making their music more accessible. The expression and emotion going into their work isn’t hiding behind layers of artistic creativity on Merriweather Post Pavilion, which means there is no escaping the incredible climaxes found on “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes.” And the sophisticated moments don’t leave listeners hanging either as the expressiveness of the songwriting reaches new heights.
The first four songs make up the strongest first half of an album thus far 2009. Although they take time to ebb and flow, build up and break down, it is the patience it takes to swim through these tracks that makes them so rewarding. “In the Flowers” takes two and a half minutes to work up to a beat, but once it hits there’s no turning back. This formula is repeatedly successful as most songs clock in at over five minutes, but the intricately crafted production and songwriting allows listeners to feel like they are soaring to an exciting climax, rather than climbing uphill. Then the anticipation of what they’ll throw at you next is justified when “My Girls” gets you dancing and singing along with a perfectly flowing lyrical delivery and rolling, funky beat. Then this summit is reached again on the fourth track, “Summertime Clothes,” with success coming in similar areas; a flawless connection between rhythm and vocals.
“Daily Routine” provides a dazzling follow-up. It is slightly calmer and more contemplative, giving listeners a nice break to reflect on the depth of beauty the afore-mentioned production provides.
But here’s where their soundscapes lose a bit of clarity, leaving me to believe this album ever so slightly flawed. MPP is front-heavy. The first half lands such a punch to listeners’ psyche that it leaves them unavoidably entertained for the rest of the album, while the music never reaches the same climax.
“Bluish” only finds its stride when it hits the “chorus,” roughly beginning on 1:56 and 3:38. The rest of the song just tosses and turns, never settling into a natural flow. Moving on, “No More Running” is exquisite, “Taste” is badass and “Lion In a Coma” is creatively fun and nearly recaptures the early excitement, but (what I would call) the bridge really loses steam. Even “Brother Sport” amazes out of the gates, but certain sections linger beyond their welcome, leaving it about a minute too long to leave an exclamation point.
Overall, I acknowledge how phenomenal some of these songs are and how exquisitely crafted this album is. “Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” are both in my top 5 tracks of 2009, and the album as a whole will likely make 99% of all year-end lists, including mine. But it could be a more consistent package.
And since I want it all, I’m not going to bend my rules, not even for almighty Animal Collective.