Monday, January 11, 2010

Late Night Music with Animal Collective


So how the hell did Merriweather Post Pavilion-- an album closer in spirit to the sub-aquatic psychedelia of 2005's Feels and Panda Bear's 2007 solo Person Pitch than its predecessor-- wind up in the Billboard Top 20 and outsell both the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand's most recent albums in North America? That mystery is ultimately the most wonderful thing about the album. Unlike so many indie-rock crossover artists before them, Animal Collective did not breach the mainstream by cleaning up their act, or adopting classic-rock conventions, or scoring a strategic soundtrack or iPod-commercial placement. And, above all, they did little to formalize their defining mercurial quality.

Almost everything we hear on Merriweather Post Pavilion has some antecedent in the Animal Collective canon. But, true to the band's science-lab-like stage set-up, years of experimentation have yielded a formula that mixes those core elements-- psychedelic pop, analog electronica, West African rhythms, echoplexed dub ambience-- in perfect proportions, producing a work that gleefully teeters on the line between accessibility and inscrutability. And the evolution is as much emotional as musical, the excitable yelps of old translated into tender, sincere declarations of love, friendship, and familial duty. At the time of its release last January, the title of Merriweather Post Pavilion felt like a fitfully nostalgic tribute to the Maryland amphitheater that hosted bygone A.C. heroes like the Grateful Dead. But now, it feels less evocative of distant teenage memories than a very real prophecy of the kind of venues Animal Collective could soon find themselves playing.

Number 1 on the Pitchfork Top 50 Albums. Quite a psychedelic music video indeed.


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