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Animal Collective's Originality Thrills Listeners

by Emily LaBeaume


Animal Collective's "Merriweather Post Pavillion."
When getting acquainted with a new album, many people feel the desire to find parts of it that sound similar to something they know. Unless one has already been introduced to Animal Collective, there is very little to find familiar when listening to “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” And yet Animal Collective’s eighth studio album gives a pleasure comparable to the feeling a child experiences by rolling down a long hill on a cloudless day. Each successive roll increases adrenaline. Each successive sound and track on this album increases the listener’s awe for music as a meticulously crafted work of art.

Avey Tare, Panda Bear and the Geologist, as the individual members are called, began experimenting with music before college. Since then they have been developing a sound that is difficult if not impossible to group definitively with any musical genre and is certainly not what most would consider radio-friendly. But with the January 2009 release of “Merriweather Post Pavilion” came a concentration of all their building creativity in an album that manages to be more accessible to a broader audience without compromising the group’s striking originality.

The album opens with the ethereal track “In the Flowers,” which includes what sounds like a blowing wind supporting electronic ripples and Avey Tare’s almost wistful voice. Halfway through the song the lyric “if I could just leave my body for the night,” erupts. It is accompanied by a more intense deluge of sound and a sudden sense that this album is a force which is driving straight at you and for which you should be prepared. That sense only grows stronger as the album develops, track by track, into what would serve well as a soundtrack to a shimmering psychedelic dreamscape.

While the musical construction of the album is anything but simple, many of the lyrics on the album are odes to simplicity, free of tiring clichés or stifling sentiment. The beat of “Summertime Clothes,” is a head bopper for sure. Involuntary dancing might even occur upon first listen. But besides being so catchy, the song also has well-structured, poetic lyrics simply about walking around outside on a sleepless summer night with the only person that matters. “Bluish,” is about the possessive feeling of a couple spending time alone doing what seems like nothing but appreciating each other’s being.

Other tracks focus less on love euphoria and more on a slightly unsettling but universal feeling of doubt with repeated lyrics such as “are you also frightened?” and “am I really all the things that are outside of me?” But even these questions tend to have a slightly carefree feel, as though the doubt is coming from curiosity rather than real apprehension.

This is one of those rare albums that can be peeled back to discover something new with every listen. Whether it is a particular beat, a harmony, a lyric that you find popping into your head in the middle of the day or the way all these things work together to create a brilliant and cohesive musical idea, it is easy to find something to appreciate about “Merriweather Post Pavilion.”

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