Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
The sleek harmonies and billowy reverb of Panda Bear's 2007 solo score Person Pitch screamed "Brian Wilson" so loudly that you recommended it to a few old Beach Boys heads of your acquaintance, just to hip them to their master's multi-tracked voice living on. What you got back was variations of, "I hear the sounds but not the songs." Well, here they are. Not that Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and company have lacked songs--well-formed, innovative, catchy, affecting--and not that they've started writing about surfing and cars, but Merriweather Post Pavilion features wall-to-wall pop songs that virtually anyone will recognize as such.
Wilson's choirboy winsomeness shows up again in the vocals, but not just there. The snatches of plaintive lyrics that fight their way through the echo--"I don't mean to seem like I care about material things" ("My Girls"), "I want to walk around with you" (sure-fire single "Summertime Clothes"), "It's what I hoped for" ("No More Runnin")--breathe sincerity into the emotional quiver of the melodies and harmonies. But beneath the vocals lies a surprisingly insistent rhythmic bottom-end that has as much to do with techno as the Wrecking Crew, spanning both the throbbing waltz of "Also Frightened" and the double-time samba jog of "Brother Sport." (Producer Ben H. Allen has a serious hip-hop/R&B resume.) The result is buoyant, self-consciously gorgeous, and canny in a way that makes its effortless sound all the more impressive.
Merriweather Post Pavilion's tunes are consistently good, not uniformly great, but the overall flow and the occasional transfixing moment--e.g. the vocal line that soars rubato over dreamy synth twinkles in the coda of "Daily Routine"--ravish. Many AC heads are sure to mourn the gibbering idiosyncrasies that spiked previous releases, but there isn't a false note to be heard here.