ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
I have somehow managed to completely miss Animal Collective over the past few years, the only reason that I can offer being that from the name I thought they were a dance act! How wrong I was, and so my first introduction to the band is with what is already being claimed as the best album of 2009. This is a lot to live up to for someone who has never heard anything by them before, and so it was with some trepidation that I put the album on. ‘In The Flowers’ is a good start – ambient gurgles introduce a slight melody and interesting instrumentation, before the song picks up pace and a tune and runs with it. ‘My Girls’ is a more recognisable song, complete with handclaps and a repetitive violin figure overlaying a summery tune. ‘Also Frightened’ is in waltz time, but with a melancholy feel to the dark lyrics, and comes over as slightly creepy – perhaps the intention. ‘Summertime Clothes’ is a summery pop song, given the AC tweak here and there with some odd percussive effects, but still quite commercial in its way. ‘Daily Routine’ starts with some disjointed keyboard stabs, which gradually join up to introduce an oddly syncopated melody with some echo-laden percussion and wandering vocals. Despite the unusual instrumentation, ‘Bluish’ is a lovely ballad - perhaps the most overtly ‘pop’ song so far, and showing that the band don’t always have to be so avant garde. ‘Guy’s Eyes’, however, shows that perhaps they do, with its loose African feel to the rhythms, and the lyrics consisting of repeated phrases. Still, the band pull it off and it does work extremely well as a piece of music. ‘Taste’ has a lumbering beat over which synths and vocals blend to produce a sort of slow dance track, if that is not a contradiction in terms. ‘Lion In A Coma’ opens and closes with a didgeridoo, but inbetween that there is a quirky little pop song trying to get out, whereas ‘No More Runnin’’ uses a watery rhythm track to underpin a gentle ballad. ‘Brothersport’ closes the album with another African influenced song (with just a nod to The Lion King?), and is an infectious dance track, pretty much what I thought the band were all about in the first place! So, my first impressions of Animal Collective are extremely favourable, although I think it will take a few more hearings before I award it album of the year this early. Since getting this I have heard their previous effort ‘Strawberry Jam’, but it was so different to this one that it does not warrant comparison. ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, however, is the perfect place to start if, like me, you are new to this intriguing, experimental, neo-psyche outfit, and hopefully you will be as impressed by it as I was.