Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year, 2009 : 11 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

"Influenced by dub and hip-hop, the album adopts deeper bass than before, wrapping each minute in synth washes and electronic bleeps. It exudes fullness — of ideas, of sounds, of emotions — that, like the emotions they’re dealing with, can be occasionally exhausting, as if restraint had been tossed out the window after Feels. Still, it’s quite remarkable that the emphasis on loops, samples, and electronics can convey such primal ecstasy, further dissolving the constructed wall between electronic music and "authenticity" (in this day and age all recorded music is electronic music).

...While Avey Tare’s songs have usually stood out on Animal Collective albums, Panda Bear’s tracks are the most indelible this time: "My Girls" and "Brothersport" are already fan favorites, while "Guys Eyes" and "Daily Routine" give the album much needed variety. Panda continues his emphasis on lyrical and structural repetition, singing about being a father and, on "Brothersport," a brother. On this track, he consoles his brother over their father’s death: "You’ve got to open up your throat/ Support your brother." I get chills every time the band harmonizes "Matt!!" Meanwhile, Avey emphasizes more conventional pop, slightly taming his melodic flexibility and reigning in his structural explorations. He’s at his best on the more moody tracks, like album opener "In the Flowers" and penultimate track "No More Runnin’," singing "On back porches with the torch of a firefly lit tree/ It’s what I hope for."

Change has always been a topic of contention for critics; bands are faulted for both shifting styles and retaining the same one. Animal Collective aren’t necessarily growing toward anything in particular; they’re just growing, with their aesthetic changing, dynamically and organically, alongside their mindsets. It wasn’t that long ago we were calling them ‘noise rock’ and ‘psych folk.’ Yet no matter what mode they’re in, the band members amazingly channel the same infectious energy, even when their lives are being shaped by family rather than aesthetics. Indeed, family hasn’t become a reason for Animal Collective to stop doing "art"; family is their art. And on Merriweather, their art reminds us that immersion in Western tropes need not be met with scorn, that not all of its idioms have yet been exhausted, that embracing optimism and melody can still be so relevant — and it aches in the most soulful of ways."

- Mr P, Tiny Mix Tapes

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