Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 11

You read blogs, ergo you don't need it explaining to you who Animal Collective are. And yet, there's always been a wall of possibly hipster founded Here Be Monsters rhetoric around them. They're freak-folk. They sound like they live in woodland. This is A Critic's Band; this is not for you plebs. Why, if you found out what they do in their studio your head would probably explode. What Merriweather Post Pavilion does, maybe on some subconscious label, is humanise the Animal Collective hydra-headed being. It's their Soft Bulletin, the album that while not exactly one for the record buying kidz (although My Girls was a Jo Whiley record of the week) brings what they do into some sort of widely sellable context while not turning their back on what helped them get this far. There's always been a lunatic fringe who would claim they were always 'pop', it's that now the currently operating as a trio Collective have actually thought to use some of pop's better nap hands to sieve their wealth of curious ideas through.

The title, after a Maryland venue where they saw the Grateful Dead in their teens, suggests or maybe confirms they take inspiration from livewire improvisation refracted through psychedelia, luckily without actually becoming a jam band. Certainly In The Flowers would suggest a certain reverence towards the freakout, progressing for two and a half minutes in contentedly splashing shimmer until Avey Tare sighs "if I could just leave my body for a night..." and the whole thing takes off in a tornado of arpeggios. If that makes for a hallucinatory sonic experience, My Girls is at least grounded to something - to be precise Frankie Knuckles' uber-rave cut Your Love, among whose undulating house synths we find criss-crossing harmonies, joyous handclaps and a proper approachable chorus in which Panda Bear expresses a wish for "four walls and an Adobe slab for my girls" (no idea what Adobe slabs are, but then he should be told social status isn't a material thing as such either) As much as this and Daily Routine deal with the basic human nature of life as grown up family men (although the second half of Daily Routine feels very inhuman, or maybe inhumane) echoes still carry through from previous albums - the dizzily whacked-out Guys Eyes, the tribalism that marks the start of Also Frightened. Summertime Clothes throbs with circuit board menace before launching into a drunken, disturbed Beach Boys swing as Tare declares "I want to walk around with you", having started on what sounds like a miniscule, distorted glam sample and featured a middle eight that runs at an entirely different signature. Not all of it escapes the trap of art for art's sake and it's still far from an easy listen, but what does is magnificent. As the serotonin enhancement of Brother Sport winds its way towards Panda Bear's familial empathy amid digital whirligigs it's evident that at last the great avant-hipster band of the 00s has found a connection with and about itself, and by extension with its burgeoning audience.


My Girls

The full list

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