[CD Review] Animal Collective, 'Merriweather Post Pavillion' (Domino)

On their ninth album, Animal Collective have given up on guitars. The indie idols have thrilled hipster after hipster by making music on the edges of pop, folk and weird while maintaining just enough of a familiar element with their suave voices and lo-fi psychedelia. They kinda sounded like what the carnival band might play around the campfire between cities—that organic, rootsy vibe folded into their sometimes-hard-to-digest experiments and was what made them novel.

Now that it’s all electro, it’s a whole new kind of juxtaposition, one that tries as hard as it can to retain what they were as they leave terra firma for the motherboard. The first track, “In the Flowers,” starts off chugging, a little ominous and faded, and builds to a sci-fi freak-out crescendo. It’s impressive for its bigness, but it’s nothing anyone will be whistling while they work. “My Girls” follows, leading with the echoing vocal dubs and harmonies that are the group’s best asset. This is one of the strongest tracks on the record, yet its chorus of “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things,” while catchy enough, sounds like it would be a small part of a verse for the Pet Shop Boys (or any other synth-driven band who can actually write a hook).

“Summertime Clothes” is the only song to have obvious joy in its circuits. A story of antsy love, its build-up and chorus of “I want to walk around with you,” grooves on an innocence that makes one think this might be what George Harrison would be doing if he started out today. And that’s the secret grace (or disappointing deflation) of Animal Collective—they always sound like they could be greater, no matter what instrument they’re trying out.

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