Chemical or natural? There is a single moment on Merriweather Post Pavillion, after a few lush, watery minutes of introduction, where the music reaches out of the speakers and cracks open reality so that you can see inside, in a way that only Tibetan boddhisativas and LSD-devoted professors usually experience. That moment, called forth with an invocational ‘if I could just leave my body for a night…’ is a genuine landmark in the winding path of music’s history. There is a level of transcendence, of originality, of genius present in that moment on In The Flowers, and on Merriweather in general, that elevates it instantly to the realm of hushed tones. So, is it chemical or natural?
It doesn’t matter. It’s easier for once to talk about this album in terms of what’s it not, rather than what it is. It’s not a retread of anything that has come before. It’s not difficult to engage with, but it’s also not populist in the least. It’s never dull. In fact, over eleven tracks, it comes off as almost too short and leaves a small but inescapable feeling of disappointment that it’s over, in the way that all great albums should. But that’s not to say that it’s unfinished, or imperfect. It’s not. This is Keats’ well-wrought urn manifest, an album genuinely without low points or flaws.
But even out of this consistent brilliance, there come peaks. Besides the aforementioned In The Flowers, My Girls is stunningly beautiful and layered in Panda Bear’s signatory reverb-drenched harmonies, erroneously attributed to the Beach Boys. Lyrically, it’s an affectingly earnest account of the responsibility of providing for family. The evident singalong qualities of the refrain create a strange feeling of intrusion into Panda’s ‘four walls and abode slats’, but the ability to get such basic, instinctive emotions into a song this catchy without coming off as cheesy must be marvelled at.
Summertime Clothes recalls the lyrically-evocative Animal Collective of the days before Panda Bear was a significant songwriting influence, painting a picture of happy and naïve summer days over a seriously danceable pulse. But the next track proves exactly why it was a good idea to give Panda equal air-time. Daily Routine grows out of individual organ squeaks into an arpeggiator-based piece of everyday escapism that dissolves eventually into a slow repetition that’s almost shamanic in texture. Which then gives way to the golden melodies of Bluish. Which then give way to… you get the picture.
It doesn’t let up. The album closes with Brother Sport, tropical and trance-inducing in a way El Guincho could only dream of. After a mid-section of ever-building rhythms and a screaming Avey Tare, the tumult reaches saturation point. The clouds part and a new day dawns. With one of the most smile-inducing melodies you will ever hear, Animal Collective give you two minutes to dance and forget your troubles before the album finally ends. Merriweather Post Pavillion is an album that effects emotions in a very real way, pulling you headlong through nostalgia, hope and the forty shades of joy. I can’t think of another album that is as perfectly executed, as plain perfect as Merriweather Post Pavillion. I would be extremely surprised if this didn’t turn out to be the best album of the year. Or the decade. I’ll stop at that before I say something I might regret later.