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Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Drift Sunday Classic

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Originally released at the start of 2009, Merriweather Post Pavilion was the ninth studio album from experimental pop adventurists Animal Collective. Man alive does it ever still ooze and wooze!

The Baltimore-founded Animal Collective have released fifteen studio albums (alongside dozens of EPs, a couple of soundtracks and lots of solo releases from its members too) over the last twenty odd years, so can certainly be filled in the more prolific category of artist. Their earlier albums remain enthralling, with ideas and noises erupting and oozing across the stereo, but although eagerly anticipated by their fans, Animal Collective were very much still a cult band upon Merriweather Post Pavilion’s release. Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin* met variously at high school and the band is very much the culmination of formative experiences with avant garde music and psychedelic drugs. To that end, Merriweather Post Pavilion is very much the culmination of those experiments and absolutely the point where a rich alchemy occurred and something different clicked. All of the tones, timbres and strands that they had presented across their diverse discography just all pieced together to create an off-kilter version of accessible and refined.
Animal Collective
The cultural and critical reception on release was huge (album of the year with Pitchfork, Clash, Spin Magazine, KEXP and dozens more) but it is important to remember that Merriweather Post Pavilion sounded much more like psych luminaries Silver Apples or The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band than any of their contemporaries**. It was wildly different to everything else at the time. With its swimming reverbs and complex, knotty arrangements, it was a truly otherworldly listening experience. Although a great deal more pop sensitive and orderly than the albums it followed, there is still a great deal of their collective idiosyncrasies in the mix. Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s duel vocals have never sounded better, almost like both sides of the brain in unison rather than two competing energies. Much like the discombobulating samples, the hallucinogenic synth runs and the frenetic beats, the voices weave in and out of focus and there are so many moments of rich pop joy. They also did a remarkable job of capturing the weird and wonky world they created with the sleeve art, a trippy optical illusion based on the works of Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka.

Without losing the eccentric energy or the sweet humour of their earlier work, Merriweather Post Pavilion was the joyous meeting point between all of their styles and influences coming together at just the right moment; it was the zeitgeist. A self-assured set of pop mind-warpers and an album that sounds as ludicrously enticing now as it did then.

* The group recorded Merriweather Post Pavilion as a trio, with Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist working on tracks to be played without guitar after guitarist Deakin, who decided to take time out.

** Battles were contemporaries thinking about it and their unbelievable debut Mirrored actually debuted a few years earlier, but that needs its own appraisal.