Animal Collective has always been a pretty interesting band musically. Multiple records explore various styles, concepts of writing, and weird ambient noises often filter in and out, even on their more guitar oriented albums. Above all else though, their 2009 released album “Merriweather Post Pavilion” stands as the peak of accessibility and also flat out best. Today I add another remarkable record to the Albums of My Life series, with Animal Collective’s seminal “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” Let’s go!
With the brief departure of Deakin having just happened, AC as a whole decided to create an album less focused on guitars and more sample heavy and electronically experimental. The results are immediately clear. One of the best opening songs of the aughts filters slowly through the speakers, and our first glimpse into this MPP world is the low fi otherworldly textures of “In the Flowers.” Panda Bear is heard clearly, but there’s so much more to the song than the vocals. At the halfway point, we’re flown into what I can only describe as a night sky full of vibrant colors and for a moment the world is at peace. That’s what happens when you’re able to leave your body for a night. It’s a perfect introduction to the record, and easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded.
So where do you go when the first song is the best thing you’ve ever heard from a band? For the AC guys, you layer more textures on the subsequent songs and make songs that don’t rival completely the moments of the opening track, but rather expand on this new gorgeous world they laid out for us. The second track, “My Girls” glimmers like the sky atop a beach in mid day, and the backing vocals help give the song a warmer feeling among the electronic based instrumentation. So many albums have a weird quality to them, and this record certainly does, but it’s more of a straightforward weird than other artists, and that’s where the fandom for this record comes from. It’s one of the most forward thinking records of the decade, but time hasn’t slowed its brilliance down in even a slight way.
A lot of these songs for some reason also remind me of the bioluminescent forest we all saw in “Avatar.” And I mean that in a wonderful and powerful way. I can very easily picture this record being played in a thick forest, searching for adventures unknown, the sun mostly hidden by the deep shade of mother nature. One of the best examples of this is “Summertime Clothes.” As dusk settles in, the thumping of the synthesizers are full blast, and again the vocals are able to bring you into another earth that we’re not used to seeing. The song itself is very upbeat and gleeful, and it speaks to the love of wanting to “Walk around with You.” It’s a very jolly song, even by AC standards, and it reminds me both of the forest as the sun sets and of hanging out in a drunken haze.
The next stand out monument of the record, “Blush,” finds us a little past the midway point, and more or less is able to bridge the gap between the beginning and the end in a mid tempo groove reminiscent of a day spent smoking things under tents of shade on a pure white beach that sits atop crystal clear blue waters. I’m telling you, go back and listen to this record and see for yourself how well these songs are positioned to be listened to in various outdoor environments.I haven’t heard anything about this being the purpose of the band, but for me it sets the stage for various outdoor adventures.
Just look at songs like “Taste” and “Guys Eyes,’ which literally feature textures that could very easily be outdoor noises and atmospheres. It’s all through the record in precise and easily obvious ways. Both of these are low key electronic songs that move the momentum into a more chill direction while still enveloping the listener in blissful ignorance of whatever they might be missing during the duration of the record.
To end though, the party blows out of control as we’re treated to the very Beach Boys esque “Brother Sport.” Seeing this song at bonnaroo 2013 was a highlight of the whole weekend, as was the entirety of their set. The song is upbeat in a non typical way, but it’s very playful still, and perfectly wraps up the vividness displayed time and time throughout the nearly fifty-five minute record. I don’t know if Animal Collective will ever put out an album as great as this, but if they do i’m sure it will stand the test of time just like MPP. Thanks for reading!!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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