Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

by Pete Sykes Rating: Release Date:

Animal Collective seem to have settled into comfortable middle-age. 2007's Strawberry Jam and Panda Bear's solo effort of the same year, Person Pitch, suggested a band tiring of the wilfully obtuse avant-gardism that had seen them lauded by Pitchfork-reading indie musos, and imposing melody, structure and emotional directness on their skewed and anarchic experimentation - to wonderful effect. Merriweather Post Pavilion feels like the final step in this process - still oblique and enigmatic, still complex and demanding, and yet suffused with warmth, a hint of domesticity and, most importantly, tunes. Killer tunes.

The record is named after an outdoor music venue in the middle of a forest in Maryland, in whose Elysian glades the band spent formative nights, listening to music and taking pills. It's a completely appropriate title for an album preoccupied with memories of happy summers past. Opener 'In the Flowers' re-imagines an outdoor E experience with a lost lover, beginning gently and eerily before bursting into life with pounding drums and synth arpeggios, Avey Tare plaintively wishing that he could 'just leave my body for a night'. Single 'Summertime Clothes' recalls a 'sweet summer night/stripped to my sheets' before launching in a blissful, exuberant chorus. It's rich, catchy, brilliantly structured, and overflowing with confidence and joy - a proper pop song, of the type you might think Animal Collective would never write.

Although it's the band's speciality, Merriweather Post Pavilion isn't all just dreamy, evocative nostalgia: there's a thread of optimistic maturity running through the songs. On 'Take Pills', from his solo record, Panda Bear sang: 'I don't want to take pills anymore/because we're stronger and we don't need them.' Here, he sounds delighted to be all grown-up, rejoicing in his new found domesticity. So 'Daily Routine' is a celebration of, er, a daily routine, finding a sense of wonder in the mundanity of being woken by an alarm, taking his daughter to school, worrying about her safety ("What can I do as traffic pass?/Guard my girl from muffler's black gas'), over waves of bass and electronic squiggles. More touching still is 'My Girls', the best track Animal Collective have ever released and perhaps the only song about paternal anxieties also to be a toe-tapping indie dancefloor smash. The lyrics - 'I don't mean to seem like I care about material things/Like a social status/I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls' - almost seem like an apology from Panda Bear for wanting to look after his family, but the feeling behind them, and the brilliant way that feeling is rendered - amidst exuberant, pulsating bass and beats, lush harmonies and even a joyous 'Woo!' after the first line of the chorus - could warm the coldest heart.

The first five tracks are utterly brilliant, and the pace sustains throughout the record - except perhaps for 'Bluish', with its air of slightly sickly infatuation - right up to barnstorming closer 'Brother Sport', apparently a plea from Avey to his brother to open up after their father's death. It starts bouncily and inflates into a long, noisy and chaotic one chord mid section before, in the most heavenly moment on any album released this year, the bubble is burst and we are showered with shimmering synths and gorgeous harmonies. It's everything that is great about this record - warm, melodic, surprising, heartfelt and tackling life's difficulties with joy and optimism. With Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective no longer feel like an intellectual's or a poser's band, but a generous and life-affirming one, offering rich delights to anyone who approaches.

Best tracks: 'My Girls', 'Summertime Clothes', 'Brother Sport'

Pete Sykes

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