Let’s get the bad out of the way first, k? K.
Both times that I’ve seen Animal Collective have been two of the most boring shows I’ve ever been to. It’s probably my fault, seeing as how I saw them long after today’s record, 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, was released, and well before the debut of 2012’s Centipede HZ, which is categorically one of the worst records I’ve ever had to suffer through.
Cool, so now that we have that on paper, let’s focus on the positive: Merriweather, so named after a venue in Maryland, is for me the group’s best release, surpassing even its predecessor Strawberry Jam.
It’s one of the most creative experimental albums I’ve ever spun, rivaling any post-rock record this side of Godspeed and Explosions. Single “My Girls” is as infectious as any pop song from ’09, in spite of its length (nearly 6 minutes). And the best part is that it just keeps going: relentless for 11 tracks and 55 minutes long.
Each track is unique, with the only binding tie between them being the liberal usage of syncopation, or intentionally repeating the same sound or similar sounds for an inordinate amount of time. It’s like breathing room for songs that would in any other case be cut short. But by letting the certain scenes go on until they section resolves, the album breathes character (this, by the way, is why Centipede HZ suffers so badly – so little happening for so long).
Opener “In The Flowers” is a slow-burn that pays off with a magnificent chorus. It’s the Orange is the New Black equivalent of edging. Stupid good. Naturally, the best track on the record follows: the aforementioned “My Girls,” the album’s first single. It’s the band’s most requested tune, and the easiest to digest.
Later on the record, the band incorporates a freakin’ didgeridoo on “Lion in a Coma.” If you didn’t know you were listening to freak folk before, you know it now. And lyrically, well… have you ever done mushrooms or acid? It’s almost just like that. Enjoy.
Merriweather packs an ample amount of samples and “found sounds.” Above all else, I attribute the record’s unique sound to these inclusions. Listener beware, though: the freak folk genre is one that is an acquired taste. As a new listener, you almost assuredly won’t “get” Merriweather. Because of its ingenious, at times bizarre take on experimental music, there are some tunes on here that you will have to sit with before they become earworms (“Bluish,” for example).
But once the taste has been acquired, and because the syncopation over time becomes hypnotic, it will be hard to rid your mind of so very much of this record.
Notice also the illusory motion of the cover art: such a killer optical illusion. It’s a mind trip for sure, but fits in with the mantra of the group.
From the last listenable album Animal Collective released (sad face), this is “Brother Sport” –
Standout tracks: “In the Flowers,” “My Girls,” “Lion in a Coma”
Weakest track: Actually, no. Enjoyable throughout.
RIYL: Psychedelia, freak folk, experimental pop, syncopation. Panda Bear, Avey Tare.