Album Review: Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective

Let me begin this review by saying this is one of those rare albums where I have never even had a neglected desire to skip a song; it’s just that good all the way through. Named after the outdoor venue in Maryland, Merriweather Post Pavilion marks Animal Collectives eighth studio album. With the absence of their guitarist Josh Dibb, known as “Deakin”, the group began to write songs without the guitar included. The result is one of the best experimental albums ever to be recorded.

Merriweather, which clocks in at 54 minutes with 11 songs, is a great experience with any sound system, but is unforgettable with a pair of superb headphones. Stereo listening really enhances this album as well; it is full of exotic electronics that just don’t have the same impact in mono. Highlights of this album for me are the harmonies between Avey Tare (David Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), the rich melodies of the songs, and the production of the album. Many of the songs flow excellently into one another, something I always like when done well, and the whole album feels very cohesive and well put together. Hardcore fans collectively dislike this album because it is much more accessible and melody-driven than their previous albums, but that is not the case for me. I have difficulty getting into some of their previous work and feel that, although Merriweather is more comprehensible, it is still very experimental and “animal collective-ish.” Give the album a listen to see what I mean, and be sure to use the best quality earphone/buds that you own!

The opening song, “In the Flowers”, is one of my favorites on the album. The synthesizer melody represents the ghost of Josh Dibb’s guitar; it is easy to hear a guitar in place of the synthesizer here and it surely would have been if Dibb was present for the album. The lyrics of the song stand out and capture the attention. They are similar to “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles, leaving you wondering if it describes an acid trip or if there is a deeper meaning. Halfway through the song, Avey Tare says, “If I could just leave my body for the night”, and suddenly the song turns into an explosion of sounds and emotions, sounding as if his wish had just become reality. This shows how completely self-aware the music is of the lyrics, and it helps to make you feel like you are experiencing everything described by the singer. This transition is one of the highlights of the album, and it really adds a lot of depth to the song.  There is so much to listen to, and every time I hear the song I notice different sounds during the second half I have never heard before.

Another song that stands out to me is “Bluish.” This song has a very interesting chord progression and boasts superb lyrics. It is almost a sequel to their song “The Purple Bottle”; both are their attempts at a love song in which they use colors as a metaphor, in this case blue and purple. It’s the least literal love song you’ll ever hear, packed with figurative speech, making it refreshing and thought-provoking. And the music itself is fantastic; there is a certain beauty to it despite the fact that a lot of the lyrics seem to hint towards conflict between the singer and his lover. There is a sense of realism in the song that says no relationship is perfect; the two have their fights but they still love each other despite it. I have always thought the vocals represent the fights, while the music, especially the beautiful piano during the chorus represents the love and the beauty that one sees in their significant other. Another part of the song that gives me the feeling of a balance between love and conflict is the opening sequence. When the synthesizer melody comes in, it sounds like an out of tune piano. This “out of tune” feeling in the melody could represent the conflict within love. Even if it means nothing of that sort, I think it sounds really cool and makes for a great opening to a wonderful song.

After a list of memorable songs that are each unique with varying time signatures, the album closes with a song called “Brother Sport.” Much like “In the Flowers”, there is so much to listen to and it is easy to hear things you’ve never noticed before after nearly a decade of its release. There is an unusual segment in the middle of the song with no words and no real melody; it is an interlude of sounds that dazzles the ear and provokes the brain. This sequence is a perfect example of how many layers Animal Collective adds to their songs, which is something that impresses me the most about them. It is almost as if they write songs thinking, “let’s see how many layers we can add together and still have a cohesive song.” This is a very unique talent that few bands are able to pull off effectively. Animal Collective are one of those bands, as all the sounds in their songs are complimentary, not random. They have everything in its right place and they showcase that fact on this album perfectly

Album Rating: 9.5/10

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