Artist: Animal Collective
Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Comments: It's never as easy to review a groundbreaking band as it is to review an average band. The latter can be given context, where the former can only be judged by its own merits with no benchmarks or guidelines to follow. Because of this, I understand the recent critical clamoring recieved by Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, even if I do not agree with it.
Judged against the rest of the independent music world, MPP is a triumph. The four goofs in Animal Collective continue their streak of creating starkly original music so dynamic and dense that it defies genre. People like me struggle to wrangle them in with vague and weak labels like "expansionist" and "psychedelic," but these uninspired platitudes fail to capture the scope of what AC are creating. They are an indispencible band that must be listened to to be understood, and that alone is worth praise.
However, when judged within the scope of their past releases, when measured up to themselves, MPP is a lacking record. Countless others have referred to this as AC's "pop" album, a designation I will not dispute. There are certainly elements of pop on this record, soundscapes and movements that follow the simple patterns and hooky harmonies that are the essence of pop music. However, these moments seem to come scattered throughout a mostly uninspired swamp of repetitious noise clouds and meaningless sonic meanderings. Songs take too long to develop with too little to sustain them, turning flashes of song into bright spots in a dense cloud of sound. Where last year's Strawberry Jam was a record of forward motion, MPP is a collection of wandering, building toward nothing and taking its time to get there.
Which is not to suggest that MMP is un-listenable, just less inspired than previous outings. "My Girls" is a pleasant enough track until it folds in on its own lack of development. "Summertime Clothes" and "Daily Routine" both have admirable sections within them, but both fall apart before anything more than cursory interest can set in. The album's closing track "Brother Sport" is the only one with any backbone, and even at its best moments its little more than a reminder of a much better collection of songs, those found on Strawberry Jam.
Let me not understate the importance of Animal Collective. In a time when even indie rock, a source of eternal originality, seems to be collapsing in on itself, AC is one of the few bands putting out unmatched and non-repeatable music. However, even the great bands have to answer to their past works, and Merriweather Post Pavilion cannot match up the band's previous heights. It might be more interesting and original than 75% of 2009's potential albums, but its not even half of what it should be.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: My Girls, Brother Sport, Summertime Clothes
Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal