Merriweather 2

About a month before its official release on January 6, the online blog community was basically in a state of euphoria over the leaks for Animal Collective’s eihth studio album, Merriweather Post Pavillion. Named after a live venue in the Baltimore area, the album was being hailed by many, fans and critics alike, as the best album of 2009, even though 2008 had yet to come to a close.

Although we are already well into March, the fire that has backed this album has not died down, and many individuals vehemetly defend the album and the band on online forums from anyone who dare disagree with them. The question remains though; is the substance any justification for what is presented on the surface? If one were to ignore all the hype and take the album for what it is, what is he left with. I can’t claim to take a completely objective view to this album, as I’ve been reading about it non-stop since January, but after finally getting around to giving it a couple of full listens, I can safely say that Merriweather Post Pavillion is a very good album. Whether it will be the best of 2009 remains to be seen.

Animal Collective have established a reputation as being very avant-garde, meaning that they typically don’t follow what other bands are doing. Their song structures are not always the most cohesive, and to say that their instumentation is different is an understatement. As such, some of their previous albums have seemed very polarizing to people who are not among the group’s ever growing fanbase. However, these sorts of tendencies are presented on Merriweather Post Pavillion in a way which make the album very accessible.

Things start slow with “In the Flowers”, a song that begins in a very downtempo fashion, but about halfway through the simple parts begin to make sense when the rest of the instruments join in. Standout track “My Girls” immediately follows, with a very simple synthesizer line that is looped throughout the entire song while percussion and bass are added throughout the songs course. Meanwhile singers Panda Bear and Avey Tare play off each other with lyrics about wanting nothing more from life than “four walls and adobe slabs for my girls”. While the song does last five minutes, the song is so filled with hooks both instrumentally and vocally that it is likely to stay in your head for weeks.

A couple of songs later, “Summertime Clothes” brings an almost 60’s style vibe, making it one of Animal Collective’s most poppy songs to date. While listening to it, I couldn’t help but feel that I have heard a very similar style in the music my dad used to play for me as a kid. With a simple narrative of escaping the summer heat by being together with a girl, it is quite simply a very well constructed pop song. Other outstanding tracks include the urgent sounding “Lion In A Coma” and its successor, “No More Runnin”.

Perhaps the albums biggest strength is the complexities of the instrumentation. It would seem that each track has many different things going on at once, but the overall effect is one that forms a more cohesive whole. Animal Collective are a very tight group instumentally, and it is evident in the fact that there are hardly any sounds that seem out of place throughout the album. Even in some of their wierder moments, like the Castlevania-esque organ riff on “Daily Routine”, the sounds that initally strike odd are evetually given an ultimate purpose. No doubt about it, Merriweather Post Pavillion is a very well crafted album musically.

A criticism that one could level against the album is the fact that the vocal styles of both Avey Tare and Panda Bear seem slightly cliche when comparing to other popular indie acts. The singing seems very nasally at times, and the dual vocals can be a little distracting from getting the overall message of the song, like on the otherwise great “Guys Eyes”. Additionally, some of the tracks do feel as though they have run their course before they actually end. Some of the tracks could have benefitted from being cut by about one minute, as the endings of some songs can make the listener antsy for the next track to start. These, however, are minor criticisms that do not detract from the album as a whole.

This album is indeed quite unlike anything you will hear in 2009. There is a great amount of creaivity expressed in each of the albums eleven tracks, and the layers of instrumentation alone warrant multiple listens. However, that is not to say Merriweather Post Pavillion will not appeal to the average listener either. There are enough hooks within the majority of these songs that one can feel justified in saying that Animal Collective have made a very respectable pop album. While I do beleive that it is a bit overhyped, there is no denying that Merriweather Post Pavillion is a very solid album that warrants anyone’s attention.