There are plenty of reasons for the Merriweather Post Pavilion blather early this year—the nigh-Jonestown following Animal Collective has built up amongst America's freshfaced, its status as the year's first big release or the lengthy leak-saga wherein certain popular webboards amassed 1000 pages of nonsense without a bit of music to discuss. Now that we've heard the record, let's please to Jesus never speak of any of them again. We have Merriweather Post Pavilion itself, a top-down summer album set loose in stale winter. Whether or not you think the ensemble from suburban Baltimore's ninth is its finest work to date, it's one with enough bright-eyed anthemic mirth and complicated, consistently revealing texturing to most likely endure the full twelve month calendar ahead.
Though MPP has already been described as the band's foray into the overt—its flirtation with so-termed "pop"—it's more properly simply a dexterous massaging of the band's best past moments with a chunkier beat beneath: the warm-cup fireside chants of Sung Tongs, the easy, almost ambient stretches of Feels and the more song-crafted, blissful energy of Strawberry Jam. But where their last record often felt disjointed and casually caustic, MPP revolves around the fleecy, self-repeating textures of Panda Bear. Gone, for the most part, are their more manic and anxious moments, the shrieks, the ragged haywiring and the fucking around in bed-hair and pajamas.
Their wide-splatter joy—the core of their consistently evolving soundscaping—was often soured by the awkwardness in which it was conveyed; Merriweather Post Pavilion is an expressionistic plea for fun and free by a band that's always relied more on atmosphere than lyrical sway, but one that wastes no sound for such complex arrangements. Though much has been made in interviews of the band's debt to Kompakt and dance culture, the album's bounce-ends feel more like a natural extension of the concerns with rhythm featured on both Strawberry Jam and Panda Bear's Person Pitch; its bottom given a little more girth, a thick base on which the band can swirl its joyful ringing, but without overwhelming their deft harmonies or smoke-machine synths.
From the ascendant harp-like guitar of "In the Flowers" to even the quicksilver synth rolls and stinging noise blurts of "Daily Routine," it's clear that Panda's soft, sunblind way of enveloping the listener dominates. Both his familial tribute, "My Girls," and the ridiculous faithfulness/masturbation saga "Guys Eyes" are relentlessly infectious—pounding, chanting, humming songs that almost topple on their own sentimental excess (good)—while standout "Summertime Clothes" may wind up the song of the year, a thick-heat swoon of samples with pudgy drum-circle rhythms as foundation for a buzzing synth part. Elsewhere, the submerged, water-wilted "No More Runnin" looks fondly back to the candle-soft meanderings of Feels. As the chugging, candyland synths and wailing chorus of "Brothersport" closes the album, it's clear that there might be better records this year—it is, after all, just January—but nothing else will sound as breathless and red in the cheek, as oddly, inexpressibly resounding as love's first weeks.
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Tracklist: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion 01. In The Flowers
02. My Girls
03. Also Frightened
04. Summertime Clothes
05. Daily Routine
07. Guys Eyes
09. Lion in a Coma
10. No More Runnin
11. Brother Sport
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