23 01 2009

Three Animal Collective posts in a row can’t be bad, right? Now that I’ve given the Merriweather Post Pavillion a few run-throughs, I feel confident in saying it’s a fantastic cd that anyone who appreciate gorgeous, experimental music should purchase. Previously, when I’ve heard similar ravings for Animal Collective’s previous works, I felt a vague sense of annoyance due to my inability to enjoy them. I purchased Sung Tongs, a few albums back for the Collective, from an Albuquerque record store, and along with Frog Eyes’ The Golden River, the two became the first music purchases I regretted. With the exception of the gorgeous “Winter’s Love”, Sung Tongs loose structure and critical lack of melody (to me, at least) succeeded in driving a wedge between me and the band that has lasted through all of their subsequent releases until now. Listening to Animal Collective had the unintended side effect of allowing me to experience what people who dislike experimental bands such as Radiohead and Wilco feel when they listen to works by the bands and the widespread praise they receive: confusion and eventually umbrage towards the music and the perceived misperceptions of the critical and popular apparatuses. Failing to enjoy music by artists such as these eventually comes to feel like a crime, rather than a simple divergence of taste, and in the worst case resentment builds into a virulent hatred for both the creators and the supposedly delusional fans, another victim of an emperor they’ve failed to realize has been naked all along.

Everybody still here after that?

Everybody still here after all that?

Despite my best efforts, my attitude towards Animal Collective was slowly coming to resemble this prefixed negative outlook. However, I believe one of my few good qualities is never to permanently write anything off, though my optimism and goodwill may dim substantially. It was with nearly a sense of duty, then, that I listened to the newest Animal Collective cd, which had been receiving rave reviews in online publications such as Pitchfork and blogs across the internets. My introduction to the cd was one of its finest tracks, and the album’s eventual single, “My Girls”, a hypnotically beautiful ode to blissful domesticity. The song, while at the same time being one of the best among a uniformly stellar tracklist, also provides an excellent preview of what’s to come. Close to six minutes, “My Girls” lacks a traditional chorus or even much of a sense of movement, relying instead on a looping melody and eventually a mantra-like vocal. This degree of repetition would mercilessly expose the flaws in weaker songwriting, but it is here where the Collective accomplishes their greatest success. Merriweather‘s melodies are astonishingly beautiful, at once complex and immediately apparent. The repetition prevalent throughout the disc never dulls their impact, and despite most of the most looping-based tracks running past five minutes, they never tired. Merriweather‘s songs succeed at obtaining the true qualities of the mantras their design mimics: a simple pattern, at once elemental and enormously powerful.

This is why I love the internet.

This is why I love the internet.

That’s not to say, however, that Merriweather is totally devoid of traditional song structure. “Summertime Clothes”, another highlight in an album full of musical apexes, features an astonishingly catchy chorus, a tidal wave of pulsing sound fueling a lyric expresing the simle desire to “Walk around with you”. “Bluish”‘s verse stretches, but its chorus is immediately striking, simultaneously more muted and more pounding than the portions before it. Merriweather has been described as the Collective’s “pop” cd, and while its hard to imagine any song from it ever making it onto a major radio station, the strength and beauty of its melodies are undeniable. The album ends with “Brother Sport”, a gorgeous, bouyantly hopeful song that embraces the repetition and trance aspects of the album fully to produce a gorgeous climax of joyously shouting voice and and an unstoppable melody. In the end, the Animal Collective has produced a cd undeniable to even former cynics such as myself, a joyous celebration of simple pleasures and musical beauty. The band are currently embarking on a world tour that will take them, among other places, to Albuquerque, New Mexico and Boulder, Colorado, both in June. I haven’t seen them live, but I’ve been impressed with the videos I’ve seen and the reviews I’ve read, so I’d highly recommend it. (Cancel that- seems like they’ve sold out in at least Albuquerque, and tickets are going for over $250.) (Cancel that again- apparently there are still tickets, and there only eighteen dollars a pop in Albuquerque. See them if you can!) If you like music, and don’t mind something a little different, pick up Merriweather Post Pavillion.

Brother Sport

p.s. The title of this post is a song name from Andrew Bird’s new album Noble Beast, which is also pretty great, if a bit of a slow burner. It’s streaming over on his Myspace page. If you haven’t heard his music before, I’d recommend “Fitz and the Dizzyspells”; a lot of his music can be a little idiosyncratic, so the song is a nice introduction to some of his dynamics.