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Music Review: Animal Collective, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”

George Lang Published: January 28, 2009

Rating: 90

Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” finds its rightful place in art-rock’s tradition of unexpected detours into pop music — when Peter Gabriel released “So,” he proved that progressive musicians often know their way around chart hits better than anyone might expect. As such, Animal Collective’s enthusiasm for world beat textures, Brian Wilson-like walls of sound and 10-minute drones are now called to service in accessible melodies and song structures, making “Merriweather Post Pavilion” a psychedelic pop masterstroke.

This refined approach is displayed beautifully in “My Girls,” in which vocalists Noah Lennox (“Panda Bear”) and Dave Portner (“Avey Tare”) build a baroque choral arrangement for a song about parenting and domestic bliss, then surround it with electronic blips and tribal rhythms. “Also Frightened” alternates between the raga-rock drone of The Beatles’ “Rain” and a Strauss waltz, but never sounds like a high-concept exercise.

The joy comes from hearing Animal Collective harness ambient noise, like the waterlogged rumblings that introduce “Bluish,” and shape them into bright, coherent melodies. To say that “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is “accessible” slightly misses the point — these songs are like Big Macs made by master chefs, easily digestible but crafted by experts.

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