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Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion January 6, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Animal Collective

Album: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Release: Domino, 2009

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Music

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It’s only fitting that the band that inspired this blog’s title gets the debut music review. I wrote this review over the summer but have been holding onto it until I could finally start this site up. It’s rather lengthy, and I don’t expect future reviews to be even remotely close to this size, but hey, Animal Collective deserves it. Begin review:

So much has been said about Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion this past year that you’d think it’d be difficult to find something new to say about it. The fact that I do still have something to say, however, is precisely what makes this album so fantastic. Even now, ten months and over fifty listens after that first time I slipped on my headphones and experienced the album, I’m still finding more intrigue, more excitement, and more depth in the incredibly gorgeous and complex world crafted by the exceptionally talented Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist.

This past summer I went to see Kathy Griffin perform with my sister. Now, Kathy Griffin doesn’t have much in common with Animal Collective, besides the fact that neither really cares about what people think of their material. The important thing about Kathy Griffin’s performance, at least to this review, was not the performer herself, but the venue that showcased her. Yes, you guessed it, she graced the stage of the Merriweather Post Pavilion, Maryland’s outdoor summer concert venue that has featured many a pop icon such as Beyonce, the Killers, and John Legend. More importantly, though, this is the place that provided the inspiration for the modern classic of experimental pop music discussed in this review.

Let me just come right out and say that seeing the pavilion completely changed (for the better) my perception of the entire album. You see, this was a few months ago, back when I was younger and more naive; back when I had only given it about thirty listens; back when I thought it was just “pretty good.” I was still stuck in the worlds of 2005’s Feels and 2007’s Strawberry Jam, not just my two favorite albums from the collective but my two favorite albums of all time, and as such I was somewhat let down by transformation to the more flirtatious, pulsating, and danceable sound. Sure, I liked “My Girls” (who doesn’t like “My Girls”??) and “Daily Routine” and maybe “Summertime Clothes” and “In the Flowers” on occasion, but I felt the album lacked the sense of cohesion and purity of sound embodied by its immediate predecessors. In fact, in a premature review I posted on my former blog back in January, I actually denounced the artistic integrity of “Guy’s Eyes” and “Bluish” (shame on me!) But thanks to the magic of the tented outdoor arena, I was able to return to my senses and see the album for what it is.

Merriweather Post Pavilion (the venue) isn’t just a stage with stadium seating. It’s much more extravagant than that: it has a massive green lawn for lovers on picnic blankets and families in lawn chairs, a cartoon-like marketplace like those found in amusement parks for food and merchandise, refreshing fountains to combat the sticky, humid air, and a giant canopy of billowing fabric stretching out from the stage, reflecting the sound and light from the speakers and spotlights to wash the audience in a sensory bath. The park’s gates enclose a miniature paradise: a world of playful fun and adventure secluded in the woods of Columbia, Maryland, closed off from the fear, worry, and sorrow of the rest of humanity. Sitting there with my eyes transfixed on the stage, feeling the breeze blowing through as dusk fell into a summer night, I felt a sense of harmony with the my fellow audience, the performer, and even nature.

I realized then that this feeling was precisely what Animal Collective attempted to capture with their newest album, and they succeeded brilliantly. I could picture the band performing the interactive call-and-response of “My Girls” and “Daily Routine” on stage, reaching out to the audience and shining their colorful, pulsating lights from the center of the tent’s universe and off into the infinite expanse of sky surrounding. I could hear the shimmering melodies of “Taste” and “Brothersport” bouncing around the canopy, reflecting off of the surrounding trees, creating an aura of impenetrable warmth surrounding the inhabitants of the arena. I could see the children clinging to their parents for security during “Also Frightened” or gleefully jumping about to the bouncy and playful “Lion In A Coma.” I could smell the aromas of “In The Flowers” waft through the thickets of grass and the leaves of overhanging branches. I could see couples embracing to the tropical sweetness of “Bluish” and teenage lovers kissing passionately to the humbled sexuality of “Guy’s Eyes.” I could taste the sweat of the hot summer sun glistening on my skin during the romping “Summertime Clothes”, then sink back down into my seat for the cool relief of “No More Runnin'”.

This was the moment when it all finally came together for me. Animal Collective’s “sound symphony” (a phrase used on the t-shirts sold during their most recent tour, which my friends and I have interpreted as a reference to MPP’s amalgamation of a wide range of musical influences) had finally clicked. While seeing Kathy Griffin with my sister, I had inadvertently worshipped in Animal Collective’s “spiritual temple to the electronic.” I had paid my respects to the birthplace of this magnificent brainchild and was rewarded with an epiphanic vision. However, because of the mainstream music culture’s adherence to commercialization of big names like Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer (the likes of which play regularly at Merriweather Post Pavilion) my vision can never become a reality. In one of today’s most sick and twisted ironies, Animal Collective have crafted an album to honor the outdoor venue in which the songs can never be performed. My vision will forever remain a dream, but the dream will live on through its flawless representation on the compact disc packaged within the gimmicky artwork displayed above.

End review. One final note about the album art that may illuminate the “Animal Collective as an internet band” debate: I’ve noticed that the optical illusion that is the album’s cover works much better when seen on a brightly lit computer screen as opposed to the physical representation on the actual CD packaging. Intentional? If so, it seems as if Animal Collective is well aware of their target audience and how their music is consumed. Either way, it’s something to think about.

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1. Pop Winds – Earth To Friend « safer in the dark - May 1, 2012

[…] two of my favorite releases as of late, capturing the playful energy of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and incorporating the pulsating brass instrumentals found throughout Menomena’s Mines (and […]


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