There’s a moment in the opening track of Merriweather Post Pavilion, “In the Flowers,” in which Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) says “If I could just leave my body for the night” and the sounds of percussion and synths barrage you in an explosion of synthesizer-driven psychedelics. Despite the chaos of all this music falling on you there is something that grounds it all, that reminds you that this is the work of a person and not just some crazy experiment done by some tripped out musician. The lyrics in the background, the hooks -it’s what tells you this festive music is not just celebratory and explosive for the sake of being so. It is so because this is a culmination, the culmination of everything Animal Collective had been working at for the past nine years. The band finally embraced the pop songwriter who so many times tried to escape from within them, ever since they penned “April and the Phantom.” They embraced their inner songwriter, but they did so on their own terms.
The record, while fun and exuberant on the surface, deals heavily with the changes in Lennox’s life that occurred from the release of Strawberry Jam onwards. Having a family prompted him to write “My Girls,” an instant classic for the group. With its flowery synths it creates the psychedelic landscapes the band aims for. The lyrics are very hook-driven as they sing of Lennox’s wishes toward his wife and child (“I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things/Like our social stats/I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls”).
Merriweather Post Pavilion goes all out with the pop sensibilities. Not only does it explore a heavily drug-damaged version of modern synthpop on “Daily Routine” and “Bluish” but it borrows heavily from foreign pop. The members of Animal Collective have always been very vocal about their love toward tropical sounds – in particular those of Brazil and Africa – and the record proves this infatuation. The tribal drums and jungle sounds of “Also Frightened” recall the stylings of African pop that Panda Bear and Avey Tare seem to be so keen on. The summery feel of Brazilian music is also inescapable in the aptly titled “Summertime Clothes” and the scorching “Lion in a Coma.”
The record closes with “Brother Sport,” a song that fans have taken to calling the “jam of a lifetime.” Deeply rooted in tropical music, the track is the major standout of the record. It is fun, bouncy, and personal, as the building synths accompany Lennox’s lyrics meant to encourage his younger brother in his pursuits. The tune builds up until it reaches its final climax as all of its burnt-out pop sounds cascade back into you, almost as if all of Animal Collective’s career had led up to this point. Those are the makings of a fantastic closer.
In the year 2000 indie groups feared the coming of the new millennium and what progression would bring with it; the paranoia was immortalized in Radiohead’s Kid A. At the turn of a new decade, the alternative had had it with being scared, and they decided to face the coming times with bravado. Merriweather Post Pavilion may just represent that feeling, may be the album that corresponds to the mentality of the youth today. “A new decade is just another number, so let’s just keep partying.”