Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ Turns 10

by Vincent Costello

Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ Turns 10

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Domino Records · January 6, 2009

Coming off three innovative, creative and original albums in a row, in 2009, Animal Collective had almost nothing to prove to their fan base. They were about emotional, driven, catchy, but still extremely experimental albums that each had their own flavor. From the folky and fast Sung Tongs to the heavy and personal Feels, then to a mix of electronic folk with sprinkles of punk with Strawberry Jam, it seemed almost impossible that the band would release a fourth album with the same prolific originality. But if you thought that they couldn’t top those releases, you’d be dead wrong: Merriweather Post Pavilion (MPP) did that and more.

With Animal Collective, what you hear from album to album doesn’t just change the genre, but personnel. With MPP, guitarist Deakin (Josh Dibb) was not part of the recording, so the group went a more electronic route, trying out more sample-driven music. The result was their catchiest and most accessible album. With previous releases, the experimental aspect can turn a lot of people away from their music, for example, having one song end by repeating the phrase “I need mouth water” for two minutes (“Mouth Wooed Her,” from Sung Tongs). But with MPP, they honed in on more straightforward beats and songwriting, making this release their poppiest album they would, and probably will ever, release.

The album starts off with their signature mix of sounds, creating an ethereal and psychedelic soundscape in “In the Flowers.” Halfway through the song, they explode with passion, with rhythm-driven and beautifully produced wobbly synths that let the listener know that they mean business on this album. The song glides smoothly into the next, “My Girls,” the biggest hit the band ever wrote. Named the best song of the year by sites like Pitchfork and Slant Magazine, the song put the indie band on the map. It perfectly combines the experimental side of Animal Collective with their new, poppier sound: The ethereal synth loops get layered with contagious drum beats and an explosive chorus that’ll stick in your head for days. All the tracks that follow are put together nicely, with the ending of every song smoothly transitioning to the next, perfectly complimenting the smoothness of their music.

While the songs flow together nicely, there is still a lot of variety across the 55 minutes. The slower, atmospheric love song “Bluish” beautifully describes being with a significant other without ever using the word “love.” This track blissfully transitions into the surf rock song “Guys Eyes,” which in turn flows into the more electronic “Taste.” Another standout is the tension-building “Daily Routine,” with its weird time signature and interesting play on lyrics.

Every song on MPP could have its own Wikipedia page full of information and analysis. From “Brother Sport,” the song Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) wrote to support his brother through the death of their father, which is arguably the greatest ending to an album ever, to “Also Frightened,” with its haunting lyrics and most explosive chorus on the album, every song could be someone’s favorite.

Merriweather Post Pavilion brought Animal Collective from dreaming about playing at the arena the album is named after, to actually doing it (in support of their next album, ODDSAC). Looking back, MPP would be the peak of Animal Collective, as their subsequent albums would never get close to the same praise and cult status. Though this was the ending of the heyday of Animal Collective, it was their best effort. This album is a staple of indie electronic music that has had so much influence on the genre in the decade since its release. The way they put their Animal Collective touch on the album has not, and will never, be repeated again.

Listen to MPP: