Few and far between are albums like Merriweather Post Pavilion (CD – MP3) – albums that vehemently deny easy categorization, but possess enough mass appeal to become revered and beloved. Animal Collective brilliantly combines freakish waves of psychedelia with tuneful, hooky vocals and beats, making the Baltimore band’s eighth studio album the closest, purest example of truly revolutionary pop music in this decade.
They somehow manage to make touchstones out of their influences – which range from the flower-child pop of the 1960’s and decades worth of experimental music to the symphonic barrage of modern bands like Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire – without aligning themselves with any particular musical camp. The sound of Merriweather Post Pavilion is expressly theirs, unmistakable and sublimely unique, conspicuous among the hordes of bands that surface every year.
Songs like “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” encapsulate the band’s sonic synthesis, with blatantly trippy backdrops that warble and wander alongside deliciously catchy vocals and uplifting rhythms. “Also Frightened” displays a the band’s relentless sense of aural overload, as skittering synthesized sounds, off-kilter time signatures, and dreamy, echoing harmonies combine to create a style that rests in the enormous valley between Brian Wilson’s layered pop sound and Brian Eno’s collage-like constructions.
There’s plenty of interesting territory in that valley. Each song employs increasingly wild varieties of sonic fauna, and it seems that no specimen is used twice during the album, which allows each unique sound to have the greatest impact. Songs build to dizzying crescendos while primary vocalist Avey Tare sends ghostly, prophetic proclamations along the listener’s spine, often conjuring memories of The Beatles’ more sinister lyrical moments. When he’s in the throes of mind-expanding questions such as “am I really all the things that are outside of me?”, it’s easy to mistake music for mantra.
Rhythmically, Merriweather Post Pavilion is relentlessly satisfying, insistent and hypnotic without being heavy-handed or repetitive. Inexplicable sounds sizzle and pop at just the right times, like the hissing stabs and cascading swells in “Daily Routine.” These moments prove that even when they’re going way out there, Animal Collective are uncannily tuned in to what works for the end user.
Merriweather Post Pavilion proves that musical “chops” are not always the key to making good music. There’s so much succinctly expressed drama, atmosphere, and emotion here that their admittedly average musical abilities never enter into the equation. There may not be enough verbiage to describe how addictive this sound is. You’ll simply say “more, please” after hearing this album, which is a lock to reside among the greatest accomplishments of the year and perhaps the decade.