There are most likely many who don’t know much about Animal Collective. The three-person act has been around since 2000, and though they’ve been experimental at times, they’ve found their most accessible release to date with “Meriwether Pavilion Post.”
Accessibility for the indie set is typically like nails on a chalkboard. However, no matter your artistic allegiance, there’s no denying that they’ve succeeded in creating an innovative and catchy work of art.
The album gets its namesake from an outdoor music venue in the band’s home state of Maryland. According to Collective, they strove to make an album that would be best played at such a venue. While I have not had the opportunity to test such an accusation, the album definitely has a warm character. This is impressive given how little we associate electronic music with warmth. Songs like “Summertime Heat” have a whimsical sun stroke feeling. Laden throughout the release is an elusive kinetic energy which is disbursed cautiously, and is at its best on “Brother Sport” and “My Girls.”
Given their commonly associated avant-garde, neo-psychedelic reputation, they’re not without influence. Musically and vocally they carry tinges of Brian Wilson’s “Beach Boys.” They also share similar content while singing about life’s simple pleasures, except they don’t surf. Animal Collective has shown these similarities best on “My Girls” by making it just as sincere as “God Only Knows” was in 1966. This comparison goes even further — the tone of their latest is that of golden oldies. There are ample opportunities on “Meriwether” to make the young folks dance.
While “Meriwether” certainly warrants attention and praise, some criticism ought to be brought. While there are no tracks that are necessarily bad, a few individual tracks are greater than the sum of its parts. “My Girls,” and “Brother Sport” are clearly anchors both qualitatively as well as in album order, while “Taste” certainly breaks this pattern. What comes in between is not diminished by the track’s greatness but the middle tracks don’t quite stack up.
With all its virtue, there’s still some indication that they may have performed more of an illusion than a miracle. Ultimately the band succeeds in articulating feelings of contentment, aspiration and enjoying life. While their message is hardly quotable poetry, it does succeed in conveying an ever-evolving mind which seeks to minimize life’s complexities while maximizing its happiness.