I was lucky enough to attend the listening party for Animal Collective's soon to be released Merriweather Post Pavilion. The album, built around a host of songs AC made live staples in 2008, is a typically kaleidoscopic record full of rhythmically aggressive, almost industrial polythytms, bombastic bass (as witnessed at All Points West), bouncing melodies and typical AC psychedelia. A friend noted that it sounded like it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean, possibly inside a mad scientists submarine lab where sounds fly freely in a steel casing.
Tour standout "In The Flowers" (formerly "The Dancer"), the albums opener, sounded closer to its live counterpart than any other songs the band chose to record. The line "If I could just leave my body for a day" seems like an apt introduction to the record, which grooves like a DXM induced dream or a spirited joy ride through Willy Wonka's psychedelic tunnel.
"My Girls", the new name for "House (Material Things)" sounded fucking fresh(!), almost like an aggressive Caribbean number with enough bounce to seriously get you moving, plus that incredible "I don't mean to seem like I care about Material Things" refrain, which may be the most sing-along-able AC line in the history of the band. The studio version doesn't include the echo'd out vocal boo's (the bomb dropping sound) that Panda and Avey drop in the live mix, but the fluttering synthetic chimes are all still in place.
"Summertime Clothes" is the new name for "Walk Alone With You", which sounded like AC dabbling in hypnotism, and is also notably smoother than the Avey scream filled live version. It's like a love song for neo-psychedelic, post-apocalyptic lovers of the future.
"The Daily Routine" is much the same as the band has been playing on tour, and that is A-OK with me. When the bass kicks in half way through Panda's first verse its like standing in front of a jet engine operating at full force. Maybe I was just wayyy to close to the subwoofer at the River Room in Harlem, or maybe its just Geologist gettin' all mad scientist and cranking the low end to world shattering extremes. Whatever it was, it was affecting, so much so that when the shimmering, hypnotizing synth loop comes back in, and Panda croons all ethereally, its as if you are being carried off into a distant land by Hot Air Balloon, or, similarly, like when the Baron of Vulgaria steals the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It's a sort of frightening, sort of exciting and, in the end, an extremely rewarding adventure.
After "The Daily Routine" was a suite of three new songs that I won't touch on because I can't really remember each of them distinctly. Regardless, they were $. Not as standout-ish as some of the tour favorites, but that could be that I am just not as familiar with them as I am the summer tour jams. The one thing that really stood out about these songs was their almost industrial percussion, which is about as in your face as anything AC has ever done. However, at the same time, they each had their own uniquely whimsical charm, and a bit of shoulder shaking bounce that made them feel like tormented island songs rather than loop based avant-pop.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is rounded out by "Lion In A Coma", "No More Runnin'" and the epic "Brother Sport." "Lion..." and "Brother Sport" sounded mostly intact from the versions I heard this summer, while "No More Runnin'" almost serves as the albums ballad, although it is far from a ballad in the traditional sense of the word. "Brother Sport" now features an almost gospel-like upbeat, handclap rhythm section and, like the other songs, alot less screaming than its live counterpart. It too seemed like more of a dance number than anything else I can recall in the Animal Collective catalog. Appropriately, the album ends with the line " You've got so much inside/ Let it come right out", which, in the context of the new record, feels like an incredibly apt description of where AC stands artistically as we roll into 2009. I guess, to sum it up, all I can say is that now I'm really fucking excited for 1/20/2009. It's going to be epic.
A DMCA notice forced me to remove the two live tracks linked here. However, they are available on Archive.Org (in better quality, FLAC, and for free.)