Originally published by [sic]Magazine
It may only be the middle of January but for the last few days I have been enjoying almost constant sunshine as I listen to a ridiculously early contender for album of the year. I also feel a little woozy too due to the rather trippy album art above, but it's my own fault for staring too long. Animal Collective have been making music for a while now which plays fast and free with influences, approach and steadfastly refuses to be labelled easily. But at the same time they have never been in danger of crossing over into the mainstream and a wider audience with albums which always contained tasty treats but never quite managed the satisfaction of a slap up meal from start to finish.
Part of this is due to the fragmented nature of their sound, their desire to push the envelope and also of course the ethos behind their collective which means that not all members have to be present for each recording. Merriweather Post Pavilion sees Josh Dibb (aka Deakin) taking a break and the influence of Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) coming to the forefront. After being such a fan of Person Pitch I have to say this makes me very happy. And it should make you happy to because it also makes for their most satisfying album yet.
All the elements you might expect are there: tribal beats, ambient noise, sampled instrumentation, sunshine soaked psychedelia, and harmonised vocals. Some reviewers have called it their most accessible album or even a pop album but don't be fooled into thinking that this is an easy listening experience. Avey Tare said in a recent interview that they "..want people to hear the melodies and to pick up on things. I don't know if we're getting better or just doing it in a different way." Well those melodies are much clearer right from the opening track which begins with quiet vocals reminiscent of Mercury Rev before thumping beats come in and the melody carries the touching lyrics about missing somebody you love (which picks up on what Avey Tare has mentioned as the album's theme: "being away from home a lot in the past year, from our girlfriends or wives or families"). This is followed by one of the album's standout tracks. 'My Girls' starts with a triplet beat on the keyboard which might remind you of 'You Got The Love' by The Source but when the harmonised vocals come in and sharp percussion it becomes a catchy song about a man's love for his family complete with an ecstatic 'Woooh!' in the chorus. I'm not making that sound very good am I? Just listen and I bet you'll love it.
Male harmony singing can be repetitive across an album's length but here the sheer diversity of styles means that they're never less than interesting and often so much more. On 'Guys Eyes' the voices are seperated, each following a seperate line like singing a round only for them to be united in the chanted 'need her' which is pushed along by tribal drumming. It's complex, intricate and brilliantly effective. 'Daily Routine' stutters in with a tentative fairground organ, the body of the song a mechanical sounding rendition of a repeated journey but at the end, as the organ fragments, extended vocals resolve the melody into a glorious finish. The inevitable mention of the Beach Boys now comes with 'Bluish' which is a gorgeous love song, kept honest by smart lyrics ('I like your looks when you get mean/I know I shouldn't say so but when you/Claw me like a cat, I'm beaming') and the constant sampled drone underneath its sweet pop melody. Hearts are clearly being worn on sleeves and that kind of romanticism pops up again with almost-ballad No More Runnin which is, well, beautiful.
As you would expect the album is bursting with sounds; animal, vegetable and mineral, with rhythms and percussion to match. But the clarity comes from the strength of the actual tunes and more than ever the genuine warmth of the lyrics. It's perfect that the album closes with the ludicrously positive 'Brother Sport', a bouncing and slightly bonkers floor filler (although it seems far more appropriate to think of people dancing around outside, arms held up to the sky) which is infectious in the extreme and a fitting climax to an explosive but coherent album. It rewards repeated listens, each journey through highlighting something new whilst unifying what you've already noticed. You couldn't ask for much more in the cold months at the beginning of the year, especially with all that gloom out there, and it just may be that when summer really arrives this album will have established itself as a constant companion.
Friday, 16 January 2009
Originally published by [sic]Magazine