this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Merriweather Post Pavilion: God's Gift to 2009?

I am surprised no one has commented on this album here yet, so I am just gonna take what I wrote on myspace (lol my old blog lol) and put it here.

If you want to believe the press then apparently we have the album of the year a couple of weeks into 2009. You aren't going to see it yet on a review aggregator like Metacritic, but everyone seems to be throwing their brains down at the altar of Merriweather Post Pavilion. If you haven't looked around already the acclaim is loud and positive across the board. Being an aesthete and close listener, I have developed many opinions about what happens when critical acclaim follows a release such that everyone who talks about that particular release being good means it might actually, on some level of truth-related consideration beyond mere opinions, be a truly "good" record or "art object". Like, Platonically speaking, if I dare say so. There's enough rumination behind this claim to fill a mile-long blog entry, but in the case of the aesthetic consensus following Animal Collective right now I am a bit hesitant to 1) continue exploring the implications of that claim and 2) say that I love this record a ton like the consensus is reflecting right now. And I am a little put off by this, actually. But I'm not complaining here, rest assured. This is not to say that Animal Collective don't deserve a really high level of adulation; I think they're truly excellent. I am just surprised the adulation is happening in such a surge following this album, which is arguably their least inventive record. The most surprising thing about the album, as noripcord put it, is just how much it sounds like Animal Collective trying to make their music do just a little more than it already has. For my point to be clear, I'm gonna reminisce a bit. I went back to Sung Tongs the other day in the car. This was the first record that got me by the throat and made me pay attention to this band / group of musicians. I remember hearing for the first time the dancing beat that pans around the stereo field which makes "Leaf House" the incredible song that it really is. In some ways, I am still just about as blown away by that song as I was on the first listen. Many other points on the record amaze me in the same way. This group, I thought, is doing an amazing balancing act by being on the bleeding edge of noise while retaining an amazingly accessible melodic element: their nearly-nonsensical words, their bizarre arrangement choices to shout and shriek instead of maybe a guitar solo or plinking, pretty piano tone, their unexpected and sometimes humorous turns of phrase made and still make Sung Tongs a pretty raw listening experience. Plus, they did this with a pretty minimal set of sounds (MPP is relatively chock-full of bells and whistles). Funny thing: when someone told me that the songs on Sung Tongs actually had real lyrics, I was actually not interested in knowing them at first and was a bit shocked/bummed to realize they weren't babbling all the time. However, when I did check out the substance behind what I thought was a semi-babble, I was impressed by the wit and keen simplicity of their lyrics.. they took relatively simple subjects and made clever phrases worthy of repetition, and they could be very evocative too. The last lyricist using the English language to do this to a big, adoring audience was probably Michael Stipe (think about it!). I started comparing Sung Tongs AC to today's, and while I still think they are one of the top three bands going in the world today, I started to think to myself "I miss that edge, they aren't doing the same balancing act I once loved." I had to put on "Here Comes The Indian" to be reminded that these guys are capable of making some of the most unsettling, edgy tunes this side of Xiu Xiu. So on the one hand, I have to hand it to the Collective: if they get a lot bigger because of this album, then that just means a lot of minds will be opened to some of the coolest, most forward-thinking music I think exists in the rock world today. But on the other hand, I think Sung Tongs is still going to be my favorite Animal Collective record.


  1. self note: use the word "amazing" more

  2. great post.

    i have to ask you, though, do you think this album is honestly 'their least inventive"? come on, it's brimming with fresh influences and beats. brother sport feels like a dance track, lion in a coma has a freaking digeridoo sample, the second half of daily routine rips your soul apart unlike any other AC song before it. you can hear african tribal beats and west african influences all over the place. if you listen/read interviews with panda and avey asking them what they listen to (konono no. 1, erykah badu, african brothers dance band), you see the similarities.

    it's really inventive, in my opinion.

    it's not the album of 2009. it's an album we'll look back in 15 years from now and we'll see how it defined our generation's taste in music. granted, it's not a 'mainstream' record, so not many people will share the same view.

    i've read a few comparisons, people saying this album will make AC what "good news for people who like bad news" made Modest Mouse. yuck.

  3. To each his own frank... I am calling Feels pt. 3 on MPP

  4. i don't see how MPP is any more/less poppy/catchy than Feels. So I'm not sure the Modest Mouse comparison works.

    i think 'Taste' gained the most from the studio while 'Daily Routine' lost the most. Daily Routine used to be so loooong & drony & lots of panda chirping sounds, now a little mechanical.

    avey was harnessed on this record. was afraid he's ruin the panda creations with his chimpanzee things.

    i was at clementine last night heard 'band' (two guys) play 8 year old AC music was wondering 'why'?

    AC are not slowing down.

  5. I wasn't the kind of AC listener that had previewed the tracks in the live settings / bootlegs so much before hearing MPP. I think that's in itself an interesting thing to consider. Maybe that's the new idea of a first-order listener. Or, rather, the old idea of bootlegging concerts is not difficult in today's world... So more people do it. I bet I'd experience this record differently if I had been more familiar with some bootlegs first, but I think that says a lot about the type of listener I am. I am all about the finished product, the album itself. I am not so into live music. I've always been that way.

  6. i put a vinyl copy on order at waterloo today. they only got 5 copies and sold out within minutes, or something like that. There was a problem with the pressing and it will probably be a i'm relying on yall to keep my ears on the AC until then, when possible

  7. yummy, AC on vinyl.. I might be in luck, perhaps I'll be seeing them in concert as they come through my city on the 22nd. Woohoo!

  8. i enjoy both worlds of them.
    i'm glad there's both.
    live & studio.
    i'd seen them twice between albums, same set list a year apart (almost).
    there was a great quality NPR show online for a while.
    it's hard to hear studio versions almost.
    it's just two worlds.

    i also am not too interested in live shows, but for certain bands.
    AC is process. journey is destination &c.

  9. the npr show is still online, the second track is "My Girls," I don't know if the first is from MPP because I haven't heard anything new aside from their myspace...but this is a quality live recording and totally rewarding if you haven't seen them.