by Stanley Delgado
Animal Collective make what they call pop but what most would call, at worst, noise and at best, experimental. Merriweather Post Pavilion, their eighth album released in 2009, captures Animal Collective at their best, taking their unusual instrumentation and blending it with the past to create something that it entirely familiar, fresh, and their own.
Merriweather is a great introductory album to experimental music because of its emotional depth, off-kilter instrumentation, and unique take on melody.
Merriweather is an album about being caught up in emotions. “Bluish” feels like being inside the mind of someone who has not only fallen in love with someone but fallen in love with the very idea of love. “My Girls” feels like the lament of a new father or mother realizing that they are living for someone else (“I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things…I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls”).
To evaluate the instrumentation of Merriweather is an act of futility as Animal Collective ditched typical instruments entirely and used nothing but synthesizers and samplers – there are no instruments on this album, only sounds.
They used everything they could get their hands on; from using empty water gallons for drums, recording their children playing in a bathtub, sinks draining, dogs barking. All of these sounds, when by themselves, remind you of everyday life, but when they are composed in the way that they are on Merriweather, they elevate the sounds of common life as sounds of nature, of beauty.
Atop the walls of sound that this album throws at you, sit Dave Portner and Noah Lennox, the founding members of the band.Where they triumph against other pop singers is that they are able to sing to fit (or fight) the mood; “Taste” is their greatest display; two separate choruses sung at the same time which that harmonize perfectly with each other.
One of the common complaints of Merriweather—of Animal Collective as a whole really—is their repetition. For “Brother Sport“, they aren’t shy about using the same two chords and same mantra over and over but what this repetition does is create a sense of childhood awe; when Animal Collective stumble onto a chord or melody, they get struck with excitement that only children get, causing them to repeat it over and over, each time a little more frantic than the last.
Merriweather is an album that demands to be heard as an album, as one singular sound, flaws and all.