Animal Collective | Merriweather Post-Pavillion (Domino)

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cd_animal-collective.jpgThere are some very obvious perks to being a suitor of sound in a city as boisterous as New York, among them my inclusion among those lucky enough to be treated to an advance listening of Animal Collective's hotly anticipated LP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some very obvious perks to being a suitor of sound in a city as boisterous as New York. Browsing Brooklyn Vegan blog posts from any place outside the five boroughs is enough to give even the most apathetic hipster frantic fits of envy. As will the following article about my inclusion among those lucky enough to be treated to an advance listening of Animal Collective's hotly anticipated LP, Merriweather Post-Pavillion, scheduled for a January 20 release on Domino Records.

The event, put on by the good people of Motormouth Media and the bands label, took place in Harlem at The River Room, a cozy lounge (serving not-so-cozy $8 Coronas) tucked away in the confines of Riverside Park. The space filled with significantly awkward excitation as we all waited for the record to start, not knowing what to expect from the ever-evolving, aurally addling, Animal Collective.

Over the course of the last decade Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist have quietly amassed an impressive body of work. From the unnerving minimalist meanderings of Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished and Hollinndagain to the comfortably acoustic campfire sing-along sensibility of Sung Tongs and Feels, change is really all that remains constant with these composers.

Enough with my courtly clamoring; onto the album at hand. Merriweather Post-Pavillion is flat-out, as poppy as Animal Collective has ever been. This record carries with it, many of the tones and rhythms reminiscent of 2007's Strawberry Jam and Panda Bear's solo effort, Person Pitch. By far their most logical progression yet. While some fans may read the last few lines with groaning disappointment, any sense of despair should definitely prove false.

As is the norm with this group, many of the songs on this effort have popped up in recent live sets, so you might already be more familiar than you think. The room is adamantly shushed to silence as album opener "In the Flowers," often referred to as "Dancer," begins with an uphill climbing piano that echoes like it's already reached the summit. Little time is wasted before steady pounding low-end, a constant characteristic of Merriweather Post-Pavillion, supports the soaring melody. Looking around the room, heads nod in hypnotic acceptance.

Those in attendance at this years' Pitchfork Music Festival were treated to an awe-inspiring performance of "My Girls," previously known as "House." Beginning with swirling, arpeggiated piano and bouncing vocal samples, this song boasts a booming break that is irresistibly danceable as Panda Bear and Avey Tare earnestly insist, "I just want four walls and adobe slabs for the girl." All throughout this album are lyrics that read with a similar sincerity and beautiful simplicity.

With "Also Frightened," the pace slows momentarily before the distorted low-end of "Summertime Clothes" reclaims the previously established pulsating prowess. Here the vocal harmonies are handled with great care. I'll spare the reader my attempt at some long-winded recollection, suffice to say that my notes on this song end rather matter of factly: Wow.

By now the five- or six-person dance party birthed at the front of the room by "My Girls" is back in full swing, kept alive by "Daily Routine," my personal highlight of the band's undoubtedly abrupt Pitchfork set. The on-again, off-again arpeggiator at work here sounds like a truncated, upwardly tempo-tweaked version of the sound found on Strawberry Jam gem, "#1." Piercing high-end persists above Panda Bear's refined and reverb-drenched vocal.

While I could continue to attempt a track-by-track assessment of Merriweather Post-Pavillion, to do so after only one sonically unjust, out-of-headphones listen would be a disservice to the dense, detailed adroitness with which Animal Collective create their lush soundscapes. With my head less than a foot away from a constantly slamming subwoofer, I doubt not that I missed many of the albums idiosyncrasies. That being said, I'll keep it as simple as possible with the next few tracks.

"Bluish" is one of the only songs on Merriweather Post-Pavillion that I can't recall hearing in some live incarnation. Here, wet phase-shifted chords rapidly rise and fall between echoing staccato bass notes that mimic the rhythm of what is sure to become the hipster heartbeat of early 2009. "Guys Eyes" follows up in much the same way, with airy in-and-out synths accenting the vocal harmonies of Avey Tare and Panda Bear.

Up next is "Taste," offering yet another existential inquiry with the repetition of "Am I really all the things that are outside of me?" Another parcel of the band's Pitchfork performance, the studio-polished "Lion in a Coma" is sure to be a staple of the soundtrack to many mushroom trips of the coming year with its buzzing, distorted saw bass and climax of swirling vocals.

Following the drive of "Lion in a Coma," the room of roughly 100 or so listeners is lulled back into friendly, familiar hypnosis by the upward-sliding vocal harmonies of "No More Runnin'." Merriweather Post-Pavillion closes with the oh-so-catchy jungle bass and high-end blips and bleeps of "Brother Sport," Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox's endearing ode to his younger brother. "You've got so much inside, let it come, let it come right out," he repeatedly encourages.

The handful of people dancing together at the front of the room throughout the album doubles in size during the last track and as the song fades everyone is left staring at one another, selfishly wanting more, but still wearing an obvious and overwhelming sense of fulfillment on their faces. We all continue to sit in quiet contemplation when the adamant shusher mentioned above eloquently exclaims, "That was fucking awesome!" I concur. A | Carl Hines

Full track listing:
1. In the Flowers
2. My Girls
3. Also Frightened
4. Summertime Clothes
5. Daily Routine
6. Bluish
7. Guys Eyes
8. Taste
9. Lion in a Coma
10. No More Runnin'
11. Brother Sport

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