Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

Rating: ★★★★½

How does one truly classify a band like Animal Collective?  Let alone, how does one place a name on something that is easily unidentifiable?  You can’t, which has often led to praise for this band, as many love that which we don’t completely understand, yet sounds so beautiful.  Merriweather Post Pavillion is the first Animal Collective album that fully reaches beyond and into the masses.

From the get go, the band quickly falls into their typical IDM driven pop music. However, from the first entry on this album, there is a certain clarity to the vocals.  Animal Collective obviously has pushed beyond their own borders, grasping onto the vocal element with a clearer sense of purpose than before.  It’s a breath of fresh air, with a presence all it’s own.

This oddity in styling is reemphasized by the band choosing to also stay a little closer to the mainstream with the lyrical content.  Not only do the vocals sound better, but the lyrics aren’t coated in outsider allusions.  Oddly, this is the closest the band has come to writing meaningful lyrics that will translate to the laymen.  Don’t fret though, the band still primarily seems to use the vocal as an instrument in itself, as lyrics repeat time and time again.  This is where many people will find the Brian Wilson comparison obvious, though they’ve clearly expanded with spending time writing lyrics.

Many will claim that the album closer “Brothersport,” which caused loads of Internet controversy with its leak is the most accessible of the songs present here.  It would be hard to argue that all songs are not accessible this time round, but also consider “Summertime Clothes” as another popular ditty as the mini-chorus of “I want to walk around with you” dances along.

While this may be the first complete album the band has put out, there are always going to be detractors to an album by this group.  Occasionally, the band repeats itself too often, making the listener lose focus in the progression of the song.  It goes on a bit long, and many will get detached as they listen.  In all likelihood this album will be best on vinyl, listened to one side at a time. This is fortunate for all us fans because the band releases the vinyl version on January 6th, while Domino Records will release the CD version on January 20th.

As usual, the band has the knack to suspend listeners in a pop-induced trance, as rhythms steadily pound in your ears, accompanied by the vocal as an instrument.  It’s difficult to predict how some will react, but most can admit that there are many beautiful moments created by clever crafts of Animal Collective.


  • I suppose if they will go through the effort of actually making music this time, I’m fine giving them another chance. I’m sure they are relieved, since they’ve always been about mass appeal…

    But seriously, I’ve hated everything this band has done so far. Just never have understood the fascination.

    I wonder how they really feel about all the recent attention though. What would be hilarious is if they win a grammy and get a chance to perform a 10 minute noise/ambient/electronic/3 part harmony at the telecast.

  • I still do not understand this band. A 9.6 from Pitchfork? Really?

    Are they so good because they add in random noise as backing tracks?

  • Me either, but i’ll give it a shot.

    And Pitchfork is hilarious. The reviewer is thinking…” 9.7? I dunno, I really like this band… nah, the second song is a tenth of a point deduction… 9.6. Done.”

    You could write a thesis on the psychology of modern music criticism based on this band’s experience of the last few years. Are they critically acclaimed for being different? or good?

    I’d say it’s because they are so unapproachable (at least the earlier stuff,) and it is tempting to make yourself believe in them just to be cutting edge or trendy. Kind of an Emperor’s New Clothes situation.

    I think I’ll start a band called Emperor’s New Clothes, and it will be nothing but ambient noise and loops triggered by rock band drums. 9.2 easy. Who’s with me? I still need a theremin player.

  • I know that not everyone gets this band, but you really should try it out. I wouldn’t have ventured to give it a 9.7 because I think it definitely has a lull in some parts, and I know the band is not easily approachable for a lot of people. However, that being said, this album is the one that I think everyone can get on board with. Just take a listen. Do it in five song segments, and you will hopefully get something out of it. Otherwise, we can just say it’s not for everyone.

  • I want to like this band, I really do. Maybe I will give them another go in a couple of weeks.

  • You definitely have to be open minded about this band. They combine so many different elements to their music and create an astounding array of sound. This band is not for everyone, but to put them down for their achievements…that’s just heinous.

  • I understand why a lot of people can’t get into this band, and in fact there’s only a couple albums I can listen to all the way through, but I love them and I wish everyone would at least respect them as artists. They do a hell of a lot more than adding ‘background noise’ to their tracks. I recently read a quote about their much less popular early album Danse Manatee that elucidated what I truly love about them as artists:

    “we just wanted to explore a new style of playing on record. this was after the 3 of us had spent most of the summer improvising and playing around with fusing song structure and noise and looking for ways to do it with fluidity. we were also interested in extreme frequencies, both low and high,and how they occupied space in the room and moved around in your heads. that record upset a lot of people, especially the people that really loved spirit. most people still dislike it as we saw when fat cat released the two of them together. but we’re pretty proud of it.”

    Not all of their music is meant to be readily absorbable by the general public. Some of it has much more to do with the band expanding its own artistic capacity. I think if you listen to Sung Tongs, Feels, or this newest album, you are hearing the fruits of the labor they put into what is ultimately a lot of noise in their earlier albums. It is an extremely difficult task to ‘fuse song structure and noise fluidly’, and I think they have finally hit on a sound that does that in an accessible way. So, way to go Animal Collective! They are just true artists, occasionally more concerned with their artistic process than the final product. They keep it real. Too real for some. I say bravo.

  • Also I’d like to say, I do commend musicians simply for pushing the boundaries of music even if I don’t like it that much. However, in the case of animal collective and a lot of other experimental bands, there are moments that truly move me. Some of the lyrics are gobbledigook and some of the noises are just that, especially in earlier recordings, but some songs are truly beautiful depictions of the band’s alternative simplistic perspective on love, meaning, and other such grandiose concepts. This is a perspective I can totally relate to. I believe they have a wise understanding of life. I’ll cite a couple of my favorite examples. I know I’m going way out of my way to prove my point, but whatever, I really think this band has put together some masterful lyrics in their day.

    “Who Could Win A Rabbit” from Sung Tongs
    Hungry bread-and-butter hustle
    You’ve been doing it a while it is only fair
    Where’s your relaxation?
    Where’s the time required for your health
    Been hating on my new perspective
    Been hurrying along no meal is ever done
    You could win a Rabbit
    You could have a rabbit or
    If the fast child is gonna have a dead hand
    We can get him started, yeah
    Bad mind let me put on good habits
    Been working to put on good habits
    some times I can’t find my good habits.

    “Grass” from Feels
    What’s with all the changin’ since the time I was aware?
    It’s like the apple-eatin’ people that we once were aren’t there…

    I was very nervous how I felt in there
    I was very cautious when you said “hey there”
    Would you like to see me? Often
    Though you don’t need to see me Often
    Because I’d like to see you, often!
    Though I don’t need to see you, often!

    “The Purple Bottle” from Feels
    I’ve gotta big big big heart beat, yeah
    I think you are the sweetest thing
    I wear a coat of feelings and they are loud
    I’ve been having good days
    Think we are the right age
    To start out own peculiar ways…

    Sometimes you’re quiet and sometimes I’m quiet hallelujah
    Sometimes I’m talkative and sometimes you’re not talkative I know….
    Sometimes you hear me when others they can’t hear me. Hallelujah!
    Sometimes I’m naked and thank god Sometimes you’re naked. Well, hello…..

    and finally “My Girls” from the new album
    Is it much to admit I need
    A solid soul and the blood I bleed
    With a little girl, and by my spouse
    I only want a proper house

    I don’t care for fancy things
    Or to take part in a precious race
    And children cry for the one who has
    A real big heart and a father’s grace

    I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things like a social status
    I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls

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