Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
(film project: )
Animal Collective are great. Almost everything they’ve ever done is great. This album, particularly, is great.
Bleary eyed and shrugging, pacing my adobe slab shack and cursing the slow-rolling internet, that, above, is the 2nd-grader-spat conclusion I’ve collapsed down into…while listening to Merriweather Post Pavlion.
Having kept up with the latest readings of the NY-by-way-of-Baltimore quartet and their 9th proper release, (which drew attention this autumn as it blazed across the drama-soaked blogosphere like a pied-piper-comet, causing Domino records to get pissy about releasing the single “Brother Sport” too early, in November) the messy drama/"preview" was able to grind flakes of chow to the music journos who could get an early start on prepping their favorite buzz words for its January-release. You know, all that preposterous pap like ‘neo-folk’ or ‘psychedelic-revivalism’ or ‘Beach Boys-influenced harmonies’…
Though all of these descriptors are so recycled that they feel empty – they still might give you a root to chew on and hopefully taste the faint sugar that is Animal Collective – forgers of staggering soundscapes and manipulators of fuzzy capriciously bouncing synth melodies and pounders of Afro-pop spinning percussion styles.
How many times do we have to hear about the next band’s prematurely leaked album? Or, for that matter, the next band that will reinvent electro-pop? Or, about the next band that reaches an angelic-choir-roaring-epiphany of the “middle ground” combination of the band’s repertoire of style and sound? Y aknow, not too weird or experimental and also not too poppy…but…well, yeah, kinda poppy…? Let us pay more respect to this album – let us not recycle nonsensical genre-phrases – let us not come to grandiose career-spanning conclusions – not for this record. This record is too great! Heh heh…hmm.
This is a dream record. It is a waltz record. It is a drive-around-in-the-winter-time record. It is a take-heart-in-the-glories-of-the-healthy-but-casual-freakout-record. It is a tribute to the guilty glee of seclusion with your significant other. (Seclusive, yes, but not isolationist.) It blurs the lines of reality and dream. (Trippy, yes, but not disorienting.)
Musically, it still has that mystic, earthy feeling (as bloomed through the computer-blips and squishy oozing buzz of synthesizers) characteristic to Animal Collective’s work, with the warm booming bass and exploratory-clackety percussion making it glow with a sacredness that feels born in the heart of the woods, in a sudden clearing soaked in moonlight.
Here, more so than the cartwheel-explosiveness of 05’s Feels or the meditative churn of 07’s Strawberry Jam, the trio focus on steadier , West African-influenced rhythms that often rock-and-sway in either energizing dance inspirations (“Brother Sport”) or steady sunset-back-porch come-downs (“No More Runnin”). In either direction it moves, it ends up pleasing, (not too acerbic or fuzz-fucked) even if the percussion is sparse. Then there’s the euphoric melding of dual-singers (and multi-instrumentalist/diligent experimenters) Avey Tare (Dave Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox)a mix of loamy moans and wispy ooh-oohs and doo-doos and flitting sunshine-y indie-boy softness that can go to catty falsettos back down to hallowed baritones.
It’s all so dreamy, man.
Some can, and have, argued that these boys aren’t really singing about much – but as they’ve grown out of their outdoorsy experimental sparse stretches into their delicate and deconstructive-freak-folk and now into their timeless and location-less sounding space-choir-art-pop…they’ve opened up considerably – and here, it’s about dreams. “The streets turning for a pillowcase” on the steady-gasping breath-synth sprinklings of ‘In The Flowers’ as downright-Coldplay-recalling piano rounds facilitate longing to enter dreamy-flower-fields with their missed-loved-ones while on tour. Picture this: the opening of ‘Also Frightened’ drips with the found-sounds of a gutter dripping into an alleyway puddle but gets quickly drowned out by rain-sticks, animalistic hoots and bongo-beats – like some kind of cold NY-urban milieu thrown into the blaze of the Sahara, which babbles with dreamy lyrics like “you can’t sweat unless swung by the hen, let them crawl into the logs…” followed by the chorus “will it be just like they’re dreaming? No one should call you a dreamer…”
Then we have an exceptional dance-tune admittedly alienating in its opening bars in it’s weird waving synth gurgle (‘Summertime Clothes’). Here, the narrator's “stripped to my sheets, my bed is a pool and the wall’s on fire” and explores environemtns where even “buildings sleep.” The sentiment of the chorus is, again, of simple love, simple longing…"to walk around with you."
"Daily Routine" opens with this shimmering faux harpsichord synth that builds into a tornado fit over minimalist bass stomps and hand-claps. “Just a sec more in my bed/Hope my machine’s working right…” as they detail the waking up process of getting your day started.
From there, the album falls into what feels like a 3-part movement of slower sways and meditative retreats, “Bluish” is a sparse warbling ode to staying in with your lover, “Guys Eyes” is a somewhat spooky space-out marked by these bass-fills that drunkenly stumble through a piano-echoed-hallway, “Taste” asks through the fuzzy looped synth and Nintendo-rounds “Am I really all the things that are outside of me?”
We pick back up with the outback feeling twang and trot of ‘Lion in a Coma’ (which, again, brings us back to ‘lying’ down for some dreaming) with “this rhythm that's up in my head / this rhythm it needs to get right out of my clothes and get into my bedroom.”
The ceremonial “Brother Sport” gets you moving immediately with a bouncing rhythm that builds under a tumbling sermon from our intertwining vocalists – it never gets too freaky, though the fuzzy noise does start coalescing in a rewardingly visceral manner, leading to the therapeutic sing-along: “You're halfway to fully grown/You've got a real good shot/You've got so much inside/Let it come right out.”
In fact, it should be noted – that chanting, in general, is more persistent on this album than any other Animal Collective release – signifying their true embrace of a more West African/world-music vibe. As the sweet and transfixing “My Girls” chorus goes (as repeated numerous times) “I don't mean to seem like I care about material things like a social status/I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls.”
Which is as close as I, (and maybe you) will get to the thesis of Merriweather Post Pavillion – dreams are heavily addressed…but I think it all comes down to simplicity. If we’ve learned anything from the philosophy of pop song lyricists, it’s that both happiness and love – are simple. But, summations of albums – should NOT be simple…so I will not officially conclude that that is precisely what Animal Collective are after, this time around…whose to say? We should leave this album more open and not come back to the same conclusions. It deserves more than that. It’s too fucking great.