Domino, 2009

After nine albums and a mountain of hype, Merriweather Post Pavilion has been heralded as Animal Collective’s most “pop” album to date. This is largely true, but where Animal Collective is concerned, this is definitely not a bad thing. The songs are detailed and dense, and despite the bursts of a more electronic, bass heavy sound, there are plenty of moments of mesmeric, meandering repetitiveness (such as the gently lulling “No More Runnin”) which are quite reminiscent of vocalist and drummer Panda Bear’s recent solo album Person Pitch.

The quieter moments are always interspersed with enough bursts of energy to stop the mind wandering completely –- a problem with previous Animal Collective albums is that they can occasionally be dreamy to the point of making one nod off. Merriweather… is much less accentuated by the urgent yelps and screams of albums past, instead building to a series of much more falsetto-harmonised climaxes.  Animal Collective’s two vocalists, Avey Tare (Dave Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), harmonise on this album better than they have ever done,  even though the erratic urgency of the vocals — which punctuated their recent albums Sung Tongs and Feels — is less noticeable here. Panda Bear’s trademark fuzzy harmonies are balanced remarkably well by Tare’s catchy choruses and collection of pretty lyrics.

In trademark Animal Collective style, Merriweather Post Pavilion dabbles in the usual bizarre and eclectic array of sandwiching African beats with sweet instrumentals and layering it all over a series of unintelligible noises and repetitive drone: it’s just that this time, it seems as though Merriweather… draws much more on all of the things Animal Collective have picked up along the way. The songs sound more cohesive than they did even on its predecessor, Strawberry Jam — “My Girls” is a fine example — shifting seamlessly from a slow, synth-heavy intro into a bouncy electro pop song with a sprinkling of handclaps and soaring, overlapping harmonies.

Merriweather … is surprising in its sprinkling of electro and deep bass beats, which work particularly well as a slow, thudding heartbeat on “Also Frightened”. The excellent closing track “Brother Sport” is a fittingly chaotic and hyperactive finale. It just makes you want to dance. Alone. In the kitchen. There has been so much hype and excitement surrounding this album since its release, which is most likely due to the fact that no one who has been looking forward to this album would be disappointed. Those who subscribe to Animal Collective’s unusual brand of dense, psychedelic strangeness will love it.

Kelly Ventress