The mesmerizing visual manipulation gracing the cover of Animal Collective’s ninth LP, Merriweather Post Pavilion, portends a bounty of sensory-addling mayhem. But the album art might be the most curious component of the entire package. Abandoning the fractured arrangements and scattered yelps that were so essential to albums like Feels and Strawberry Jam, Avey Tare, Geologist and Panda Bear (fourth member Deakin is hibernating), with their latest offering, transcend the group’s trademark schoolyard taunts, instead leading a pep rally powered by a wave of neon-tinted spirit sticks.
These melodies are more centered, tuneful and upbeat than fans have come to expect from the pan-continental combo (Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox now lives in Portugal). The refined, postrave utopia of “My Girls” and the minimal trot of tracks like “Also Frightened” and “Summertime Clothes” are the closest thing to a dance record AC’s ever done.
The album opens with the Middle-earth meditation “In the Flowers,” countering the band’s restless rhythms with spare, precisely deconstructed beats. An ethereal electro-wash complements the constant hand claps and rim shots punctuating the amiable mood of Merriweather like a psychedelic plug-in for Pro Tools.
The watery warble of the love song “Bluish” might be the guys’ first proper pop song. Meanwhile, the beautifully layered ethno-bounce of album closer “Brother Sport” demonstrates the impressive vocal facility of Lennox, whose choral clouds gum up the atmosphere with glittery gusto.
Still, save the album cover, Merriweather won’t make you feel as if you’re on drugs. It makes you want to buy some. In that regard, Animal Collective approximates the appeal of another act, the Grateful Dead. While the album’s title pays homage to the Frank Gehry–designed amphitheater in Maryland, the Dead was memorably banned from the venue. We doubt AC will have that problem.
Animal Collective plays a sold-out show at Metro on Thursday 22.
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