Review Summary: They embrace what has been covered in masks and pseudonyms throughout their career; they are, in fact, as human as the rest of us.
For every rainy summer afternoon, for every campfire sing-along, for every nightmare and every trip to the swimming poo-hool, there is time spent in routine. For every masked concert, for every lightshow and blast of delayed guitars, there is coming home to a wife and kids and going off to work the next day. Animal Collective doesn't return to old habits with Merriweather Post Pavilion. Instead, they embrace what has been covered in masks and pseudonyms throughout their career; they are, in fact, as human as the rest of us.
And what a glorious thing this is, because what gains this album the 4.5 star rating is not Animal Collective's supernatural ability to weave sound into the hazy memories of childhood summers that was displayed on Feels...it's their ability to take an evolved version of that sound, look at how far they've come, how old they have grown, and say "Hey, it's okay to be normal. It's okay to be a dad."
Not every song, just some highlights:
Opening the album is the brilliantly structured In the Flowers
. What sounds like a sampled Zerg sound-effect is the first piece of synth we'll hear on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Ambient, delayed instruments and moaning dance around before they give way to the centerpiece of this spacey intro, a harpsichord-like synth plucking away at an arpeggiated two-chord progression. Animal Collective's trademark reverb-ed vocals come in, and we hear some clapping in the background as lyrics are sung that reveal nothing about the album's world-weary mundanity to come. There's some tension building here, around what seems to be the concept of a torturously separated couple. As the line "If I could just leave my body for the night..."
fades to absent-mindedness, here comes the song's climax. Powerful, emotional drumming pounds away with bass under an explosion of pure synthesized awesome, and for a few minutes two lovers are in total harmony before the song moves back to the intro's chords, the vocals fade away on the line "I left flowers for you there.", and the Zerg-synth melts away to end our first experience with MPP. An easy 5/5
showcases Animal Collective's skill with layering vocals. Fast synth arpeggios kick this one off, along with a "bouncy" bassline and a very, very catchy chorus. Here we have our first taste of AC's newfound normalcy, as the chorus proclaims: "I don't mean, to seem like I care about material things (like my social status). I just want, four walls and adobe slats for my girls."
While I don't have as much to say about it as the previous song, it's simple, enjoyable, and will definitely become a favorite to those that can stand the pop-ier melodies and samples used here. With no negative points, I give this a 5/5
Song number 4 is the upbeat, extremely catchy, pop-oriented Summertime Clothes
. It's not a stereotypical AC song, but it's the kind of thing I'd blast at a party or show a Lady Gaga-obsessed girlfriend when she asked for good
electronic music. The lyrics are about summer nights lying awake, suburban car rides, and carefree time spent in good company. There are splashy sounds here, beautiful vocal harmonies, telephone samples, and jagged synth arpeggios like some we've already heard. This song is a fun break from Panda Bear and Avey Tare's adult problems, but doesn't quite reach back to songs like The Purple Bottle
. It's not that young, but it's just as innocent and naive; fun times spent as a teenager or twenty-something. 4.5/5
for being a good song, but possibly much too accessible for older Animal Collective fans.
may not have the easy hooks of Summertime Clothes
, but older Animal Collective fans will be comfortable with the "trippy" vocal lines that eventually come around at the end of track 5. The same verse is repeated twice after a crazy organ gives way to heavy bass and vocals. This song feels like early mornings, commuting to work, and the half-conscious daze with which we go through tired motions, with which we observe others in their own half-conscious dazes. A lot is revealed about the world here, and this song works miracles in pulling us down from song 4's sky-high happiness. The two work as an unexpected pair; a teenage dream with a hole cut out by promises of world-weary travel the next day. As sleepy and distanced as it may be, Summertime Clothes
is the dream here and Daily Routine
is just like waking up. 5/5
Jumping a bit further in the album, the song Taste
asks "Am I really all the things that are outside of me?"
. The band wonders whether or not our interests are a result of our personalities, or if our interests and possessions influence who we are. Can we be the same without our music, the way we dress ourselves, our choice of food, art, movies, books? Animal Collective wonders under a mix of synths, rhythms, and melodies that sounds like pure jungle-ecstacy. The lyrics betray the music, because this song takes us on a brief trip to the countries from which the beats and vocals take influence. A beautiful track that will have you whistling and questioning long after the record it enhances has ended. 4/5
for a good song with great concepts, but not quite as enjoyable or brilliant as what Animal Collective has proved they are capable of.
The next piece is a classic, merging jungle beats and pop melodies to another upbeat, enjoyable song. Lion in a Coma
eventually becomes "Lying in a Coma" in the song's goofy chorus. We have crazy beats here, lots of synth, a didgeridoo, and great melodies with rhythms that are catchy all by themselves. When you're not whistling the chorus, you'll be drumming along happily; this song does not disappoint. 5/5
And now the last track, the memorable and intelligent Brothersport
. It starts out with a quick slide down the E string of a guitar, and staccato synth chords punctuate a melody as an odd roaring sound builds to become more arpeggios. We have more emotional beats, crazy synths, and polished melodies that will become the memorable points of Merriweather Post Pavilion. As the first verse and chorus close, we have a huge amount of samples being repeated and built upon, until the amount of tension is incredible and AC breaks on another great melody. This melody also builds, repeating and roaring until the drums finally come in and the song becomes extremely dance-able, the climax of the questions and concerns Noah Lennox and David Porter have faced us with so far. The lyrics here aren't easily understandable, but what the song is saying is very clear. The happy melodies, the pop qualities put a cap on the album, and there's something about this song that screams out that it is, in fact, okay to be normal. And wasn't that the point of this whole thing, after all? With so many questions and adult sentiments, what Animal Collective is trying to get across here is that maybe there's something beautiful in every minute spent waiting for the subway, in every traffic signal or lunch packed and sent with a child to school. Maybe our daily routines and groggy drives to work aren't just painfully, desperately, boring. There's something breathtaking about continuity, about humanity, and the band grabs it firmly by the horns with this last song. This song is definitely a 5/5
, the best on the album. I'd give it a 10/5
if that made sense, or an infinity out of five if I could type the damn symbol. It's just that
And that's what makes Merriweather Post Pavilion a classic. Under the outdoorsy feel, under the jungle beats and memorable vocal lines is an amazing, outstanding sense that absolutely nothing this band does is amazing or outstanding. It's humble, but flamboyant. It's insanely alien but somehow predictably human.
Besides this, there's nothing more I can say about the record that hasn't been said. It rocked 2009 for a reason. Everyone should give this a listen, because, despite the subtleties of Taste
, we are all human, and we can all enjoy these sentiments. Merriweather Post Pavilion is a 4.5/5
that shouts: "It's okay to be normal. It's okay to be a dad."
-No More Running, Also Frightened, Daily Routine, Bluish, and Guy's Eyes provide positive points for old Animal Collective fans
-Amazing themes and concepts about humanity
-Contrast between lyrics and otherwordly sounds
-Amazing opener and closer
-New, refreshing ideas from Animal Collective
-The lyrics on Bluish
-Some synth effects become overused or predictable
-May be much too accessible or electronic for those who are used to the harshness of Feels-era AC