Sunday, January 25, 2009

Album Review - Animal Collective

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

It is always exciting when a generally 'uncommercial' band flirts with pop techniques and structures and funnily enough it brings out the best in them as well, Tv on the Radio, Deerhoof, Gang Gang Dance have all had (or are going through) a pop phase and as a result are becoming critical darlings.

To be fair Baltimore's Animal Collective have always had, at least, one hugely ear friendly song on each album. Be it 'Shippi', 'Who could win a Rabbit' , 'Grass' or 'Peacebone' there is that one track that makes listeners wonder what would happen if the band themselves would release a record which would contain more of those big tunes.

On their eigth album, Merriweather Post Pavilion' Animal Collective have finally showed the world what they could do if they record an album with memorable tunes and this may be their biggest album yet and propel them from the underground.

In essence 'Merriweather ...' is a progression from 2007's superb 'Strawberry Jam' However it is more shiney, shimmery and happier sounding. The group have been compared to the Beach Boys during their 'Pet Sounds' era and now this tag will stick more for this current record carries the same transcendental pop torch. As a warning this album is not the equivalent of some mega sellout but it displays a side of Animal Collective that they have only revealed sporadically.

With songs like 'My Girls' , 'Summertime Clothes' and closer' 'Brother Sport' the band have discovered a newfound love for more prominent danceable beats. In fact the aforementione Brother Sport echoes early nineties rave music and will be a track some big name djs would love to remix and if released as a single will take clubs by storm. Another thing I noticed is that their sense of beauty is used more, I constantly have images of lovers canoodling to 'Bluish' or 'In the Flowers'

It is not a total departure though. Those echoey spacey bits still feature (although Avey Tare's traditional yelping is mysteriously subdued), voices are still in harmony and the ability to chuck in a sound effect that startles or tickles the ears hasn't diminished either and that Jew Harp in 'Lion in a Coma' is a case in point.

'Merriweather Post Pavilion' is a perfect album from beginning to end and my inner critic is dying to find at least one fault with the whole thing but there isn't. Each song has an underlying magic which reveals itself from the second you press the play button. Also it's arrived 12 days into the new year and has established itself as the first big hit of 2009 and probably one of the biggest summer albums in the long run as well.

Animal Collective constantly evolve as a band and are already previewing tracks from album number nine on tours so where they go next is anybody's question but it way too early to be discussing such matters.

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