Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

If I had a college “experimental” phase it was about a decade or so after graduating from college and involved (surprise) music as opposed to anything more prurient and, you know…fun.  Tired of the monotony of metal and hanging out with a bunch of friends who were younger than me I started to dip a toe into the pool of indie rock and pop, or as I liked to call it (and still do) “Pitchfork Music.”  Things like Blonde Redhead, Kasabian, Smoosh, Grizzly Bear, Dirty projectors….and yes, Animal Collective.  If there was any album that was constantly raised on a pedastal as the be all, end all of independent pop music, it was their 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion.  So of course I had to buy it… 

Back then more than anything it came across to me as a woozy, gauze-wrapped block of sound, timid and tentative and interesting if nothing else.  Coming back to it now with a little more patience I’m more at ease being swept up in the sound collages and intricate moments of the tracks.  It feels like an assembled album, which may have a been a little of the put off with my initial listens.  I should add painstakingly assembled; tracks like opener “In the Flowers” and single “My Girls” are filled with tiny moments that can pass by as an afterthought but taken in closely (and loud: I did two full listens in my car and as I write this have it pushing through my headphones) there are many beautiful moments.

But – and this is also still true – it feels like the epitome of a headphone album.  I don’t think Merriweather Post Pavilion is a casual listen, and really cannot be taken as such without losing the sense of what makes it special.  You can glean from a remove the world elements that form the foundation for the closing track “Brother Sport” and it’s easy to hear some of the 60s psychedelic pop influence on the aforementioned “My Girls” and “Bluish” but it’s easier to miss the layer upon layer of invention, the drunk polyrhythms, the way sample build to create lush soundscapes that buoy the melodies and lyrics.  Lyrics which I now took the time to read as the album rolled along.  Reminisces on love and life add to the hazy sparkle Animal Collective achieved, and it’s something I plan to come back to more often to sift through, a relic of a moment when pop invoked another round of invention.

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