Album: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

Great artists don’t come immaculately conceived; it just seems that way. Really, they spend years listening, absorbing, and developing their craft. So it is with Animal Collective.

Ten years and a string of albums which have constantly striven to organically extend and re-imagine the boundaries of their sound precede this, starting with tribal primitivism and moving and growing more compelling with each effort. Sung Tongs and the awesome Feels are both beautiful examples of modern communal folk;Strawberry Jam is a colourful circus of playful noise. But Merryweather Post Pavillion is something else. Something mind-expanding. A groundbreaking tour de force that touches on whole new ways of experiencing and hearing music. Put succinctly, fucking great.

Despite probably being their most ‘pop’ effort so far (don’t expect to hear it on the radio, mind) if you’re new to Animal Collective it will still probably sound bizarre and offputting. But let Merryweather wash over you a few times and you’re in for a cathartic, heady experience, psychedelic in the truest sense. Each song is a rush; moment after moment directly incites the joy centers of the brain. ‘My Girls’ is soaringly epic. ‘Brother Sport’ is equal parts rave and campfire singalong. And I defy anyone to listen to the chorus of ‘Summertime Clothes’ for the first time and not laugh out loud. I did, walking down the street in full public view sadly.

The secret to this album’s success is what’s underneath the vocals; a seething world of electronic euphoria, churning synth noise that runs dynamically through the musical spectrum with an energy all of its own. The effect is truly synaesthetic, a technicolour display that evokes all the glorious confusion of their highly visual live show. Animal Collective have never been happy to stay on the level of one sense alone, but that ambition is fully realised here. 

It remains to be seen if Animal Collectve are going to inspire a wider community of musicians. Possibly they’re too esoteric. But it’s not unreasonable to talk about them on the same terms as the great innovators. Even before this, Animal Collective were already one of the most inventive bands on the planet. On Merryweather they have upped the ante again, making the future look that little bit more interesting.

Words: Carey Davies