Or, Animal Collective fans have declared music in 2009 is officially futile and superfuluous
In case you hadn’t already heard, the ZOMG BESTALBUMEVER was released a few weeks ago: Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. A record that many are already considering to be the pinnacle of music in 2009 at it’s green, three weeks young. I’ve read so much criticism (through message boards and reviews alike) that I hardly know what to think anymore besides, this record is a certified classic and a dramatic musical event–in the indie world at least.
So the question on everyone’s mind: Is this the best record of 2009? Unfortunately, that’s yet to be determined, but Animal Collective got their chips in with the best of it and are looking to avoid some back luck. Is this the best record in the last 365 days? Absolutely. And per my year-end post, that’s both a compliment and a subtle jab (not lots of great music, tons of very good music, etc.).
Tangible things in a vacuum
To put my American Culture degree to good use, I’ll employ the two analogies of the American make-up: the salad bowl vs. the melting pot, the former being a bunch of different parts thrown together to make a whole while the latter is the chemical melding of elements to create something completely new. This analogy’s application to the construction of America is rather self explanatory, wherein these are two different ideologies about how the racial, religious, and socioeconomic immigrants relate when considering the country’s make-up. Merriweather Post Pavilion, in this argument, is quite obviously the melting pot.
Take, for example, Radiohead, a group that, through it’s decade-plus existence has experimented with a number of different styles. Though Radiohead have been lauded for their ventures into electronic, dance, Brit pop, etc., these different genres materialize in distinct moments in their career. Merriweather Post Pavilion, in contrast, is a record that integrates pop, psych, electronic, dub, dance, and drone simultaneously. This is no easy task given how varying these different forms are, but Animal Collective has managed to do it.
For proof, look no further than “Summertime Clothes,” a song that a colleague who I hold in the highest regard is already calling the song of the year. The track has a baseline like a heat wave, claustrophobically pulsating alongside the rather simple boom-snap of the track’s percussion. The watery melody is alien but singable. And that’s what defines this record: A perfectly balanced dichotomy that’s both immediately recognizable and discernable, as well as a sonic blend that doesn’t feel forced or out of place.
After Animal Collective’s last record, Strawberry Jam, there was constant Internet chatter that was all “This is the record they finally make it to the mainstream with. This is just a pop album”. The Internet’s resident fanboy/Animal Collective prodigy, Mike Powell, puts some of this into perspective as well as writes one of the most eloquent retrospectives I’ve read in a while–seriously y’all, dude is the best music writer in the nation, I highly suggest you look him up.
But does this record, which is quite obviously more pop oriented and has some of the most glorious melodies of any recent album, actually going to hit the mainstream? It’s already gotten a little bit of national press, but to think that a record that is ostensibly still an experimental psych record will be widely adored by the masses is sort of nonsense. They’ve made some moves in their marketing of the record (e.g., releasing the vinyl before the CD with an included digital copy, as well as releasing it in a relative down time for releases) that will help get it more attention that it typically would, but you’re not going to suddenly see Animal Collective popping up in 14-year-old girl’s record collections–I almost typed TRL, it still weirds me out that TRL is no longer a show; what will I tell my kids?–unless the government starts passing out LSD again and there’s a massive freak fest that grabs national attention.
– “Brother Sport”, the album’s closing track, is being much maligned even though it has the album’s best melody. The album was somewhat unfortunately sequenced as this track’s change of pace and tonal shift would’ve been perfect to disrupt the gooey, monotonous center.
– As mentioned above, the sequencing of the record is just OK. But because there is nothing resembling a bad song on this entire album, they can get away with it.
– This is, no questions asked, the best, most complete Animal Collective album to date, and one that I’m not sure they’ll ever top. It is a complete record in a way that their previous albums weren’t. It’s more complete, containing less of the random experimentation that muddied their earlier records; melting pot vs. salad bowl.