Tag Archives: Animal Collective

TDOM Day 19: A Song From Your Favourite Album

Animal Collective – Guys Eyes

One of the lesser-loved songs from Merriweather Post Pavilion. It used to be called Song For Ariel on both AC and Panda Bear bootlegs, and I always assumed that the Ariel in question was former Paw Tracks labelmate Ariel Pink. At the time I couldn’t hear the lyrics. Now that I can (they’re about masturbation), it’s funny to sub in other Ariels as the song’s Ariel. Feminista Ariel Levy. Former hardline Jewish leader Ariel Sharon. Ariel from the Tempest. Possibly most likely, Ariel from the Little Mermaid.


TDOM Day 11: A Song From Your Favourite Band

Animal Collective – Slippi

I like this band way too much. I have personal relationships with all of their albums in the same way weirdo Christians have personal relationships with Jesus. Do not get me started.

The Year. 1. And the ecstasy turns the writhing light through our windowpane.

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion [US]

It starts out slow, like a wave washing on a shore. Geometry gradually appears in the swells, and Avey Tare shows up to meander and sway through two verses of In The Flowers. Then it happens. The sky cracks open. Like God reaching down through the frescoed roof of a cathedral, but with industrial strength strobe lights, Merriweather Post Pavilion arrives and announces its presence.

It’s stunning. The building blocks are sounds that haven’t been heard before, but the end results are feelings as familiar as can be. Rhythms cascade into each other, with syncopation undercutting the burbling top level, and the melodies seem conjured from some deep subconscious, the songs you hear as you’re falling asleep, or as you are asleep and dreaming, coloured in with the fluorescent paint of plot-free imagination.

Of course, Animal Collective have been one of the best bands around for nearly half a decade. So what’s new? Well, not unlike the career trajectory of Genesis, their drummer found his voice. Panda Bear had songs on Strawberry Jam, but it was still quintessentially an Avey Tare record, like all preceding Animal Collective albums. But his influence on Merriweather Post Pavilion is apparent, and vast.

Panda Bear paints in broad strokes. Avey’s songs are subtle, sometimes wordy, and often fairly complex, but Panda keeps it simple. He wants to build a house for his wife and child. He wants to lie in. He wants to masturbate less. He wants to perk up his brother after their father died. But unlike his solo material, where the swathes of space between his block capital theses are filled largely with sonic wandering, on MPP he has the enviable advantage of a genius and a bearded man to shade the shapes in subtler colours.

It works the other way too. Avey can still go on lyrical wanders alone from time to time, but on Also Frightened, they’re locked into almost telepathic step with each other for the entire song. And even on Avey’s tours de force like In The Flowers or Summertime Clothes, the fluid, bathyspheric sound on the album as a whole is the result of synthesis between two creative forces. And also, obviously, synthesis of actual sound.

In The Flowers is the set-piece opener, sui generis and almost physical in its assault, but the closer is just as impressive. Brothersport arrives, a slab of iced pop, after No More Runnin’, MPP’s only true pretty meander in the old AC style. There’s no mystery about this one. “Open up your, open up your, open up your throat”. Shuffling, quasi-“world” rhythms underpin some oscillations and celebratory singing for about a minute and a half before the screaming section, which lasts just as long again, building up drums and angular synth oscillations until finally the clouds of misty mystic haze first unleashed on In The Flowers clear, and Merriweather winds to a close with two minutes of carefree dancing.

I could write a 33 1/3 book about this album. Maybe some day I’ll try. But I need to pick an arbitrary point to shut up about it here, so this might as well be it. It’s been a year since Merriweather Post Pavilion came out, and persistent listening hasn’t worn it out yet. It’s the best album of 2009, for the purposes of this list, but put any arbitrary time period in front of me and I’d make it the best album of that as well. Desert island or wherever, MPP’s coming with me.

Attractive day in the rubble of the night from before

Photo by the inimitable Loreana Rushe, link later on in red.

Photo by the inimitable Loreana Rushe, link later on in red.

Talking to someone I hadn’t met in a few years before going in to catch the start of Dent May’s Animal Collective support slot, I had a moment of very mild epiphany. ‘This should be good’, I said. ‘Yeah’, my friend replied. Standard enough so far. ‘Have you seen them before?” I asked, trying to feel out the level of depth I’d be able to go into with my pre-gig hopes and wishes. ‘No, but I’m looking forward to this. Have you?’ ‘Yeah, it’s my fifth time,’ I said with all the pride of a Dead Head in the 70s telling a first-timer that he remembers back when Jerry Garcia’s eyes were actually capable of focusing on anything in the physical realm.

Continue reading

Keep it real keep it real shout out

This is a review that was meant for the ill-fated February issue of Analogue Magazine, which fell prey to tightening advertising budgets. It came straight out when I sat down to write it, and I’m quite proud of it in a round-about, I-realise-it’s-gush sort of way. I gave it 1000% if you didn’t guess.

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.

Catch-up: And you’d smile and say, “I like this song”

Went to London and spent a weekend in a penthouse apartment in Kensington with seven friends listening to Merriweather Post Pavillion. It’s not like we didn’t try to go out. We did. It just never worked. We nearly made it to a salsoul club, whatever that means. We did make it to an insane club that wasn’t sure whether we were ‘indie rock’ enough to get in, despite the fact that the closest they came to indie rock all night inside was ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by the Stooges, a drop in the gushing river of indifferentiable electro.

I bought records on Portobello Road and in Rough Trade. I bought clothes in (predictably) American Apparel. Took black cabs, saw Westminster, went the wrong way around the Circle line to get to where I was going. But the weekend was about Animal Collective. Every gap, while we were cooking or waking up or just hanging out, was filled with Merriweather Post Pavillion.

And then the weekend passed, and it was Monday the nineteenth of January and we went to the Koko in Camden to see Animal Collective.

This guy stood in our way for a while, singing Orwellian songs in a John Lydon-on-I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of here persona. Few support acts have been worse.

Then came Avey, Panda and Geologist. The set-list was as follows:

In The Flowers
Daily Routine
Also Frightened
New Song
Weird unrecognisable version of Winter’s Love
Guys Eyes
Summertime Clothes
Lion In A Coma
Banshee Beat
My Girls

The rainbow strip lights were going and it was the first Animal Collective gig I’ve ever been to that hasn’t had majority new stuff being passed down from the improvisational gods on high. It was mostly pretty cathartic.

Things that were off:

Winter’s Love’s only recognisable bit was ONE BAR of the drum loop from it, during a 5 minute long improvisation that was apparently supposed to BE Winter’s Love

I think the bass was missing from My Girls, which robbed it of some of its finality at the end

I have a feeling they missed synching the beat in Banshee Beat, ironically, but it was still great as just an Avey strumathon.

Things that were on:

Everything. The guts of Merriweather Post Pavillion, which is probably the most perfect album I can think of, and I’ve been thinking for about two months.

Slippi, being off the cuff as it is, freewheeling along. Chores, starting in ultra-slowed down, lamenty Panda Bear mode, but eventually kicking in to its full-on frenetic brilliance.

Songs like Also Frightened and Lion In A Coma leaping off the page and being counted even more than they are on the album.

Brothersport, being an incomparable live experience.

Side notes:

met a man who was talking about government laws and saying “that’s right yeah” every four mumbles on the tube, who seemed to know what he was talking about.

Read in ‘The London Paper’ (a free Tube-rag) that ‘Josh Dibb and co.’ were playing the Koko, Josh Dibb being Deakin who has been on hiatus since just before the release of Strawberry Jam.

It was a great gig. I’m sorry this review has no logic or structure, but it was quite a long time ago.


A genie made me out of the earth’s skin

Gig’s off. Sitting underground in the library in college on a beautiful summer’s day because there were no free seats anywhere else, I got four texts to tell me. Something to do with a missed ferry. Disaster.

Eight hours later, I’m standing outside Whelans in a queue that goes around the corner, eating free chips (thank you Foggy Notions) and getting jittery for a gig that seemed semi-destined to go down in the great tradition of Dublin gig folklore. It couldn’t be anything but brilliant. That was just the energy around the place.

Seeing Animal Collective in Whelans is the kind of thing that can only happen by chance. They’re way too big under normal circumstances. Oxegen 2006 was good, but it was Oxegen. Tripod was only alright, the sound was dodgy and the singer couldn’t sing.

This time, Avey could sing. It absolutely made all the difference. It unlocks the (in my opinion) best of their back catalogue, though new stuff is Panda-heavy. But it also means that the two-vocal attack kicks in, like it should. And that’s central. It happens in new stuff like Walking Around With You and in old stuff everywhere. Avey sings, and Panda chimes in, or Panda sings and Avey murmurs under it. The layering is a big part of the charm.

Adrenaline had me trying to jump around a bit like a spa at the start, but when I stopped fucking around, it really did start being profound. It’s not a rock show, and it’s taking me a while to beat that mindset, but I’m getting there. Peacebone appeared, and it was good, but the extended Fireworks-Essplode-Fireworks-Essplode-Slowed Down Fireworks spree was one of the greatest things I have seen, full stop.

Being close enough to actually pull out plugs if you wanted to makes the experience so much more personal. You feel in the mix. It swirls around, you can see where each sound is coming from and feel the chemistry of the whole experience. No-one else could’ve almost completely ignored their two best albums and still played the best gig New Whelans has seen. The new stuff, particularly Song For Ariel and the new new one, is up there with the best stuff they’ve got.

So at 1.45, I ran for the last Nitelink to get home in time to get up for an exam. But as my friend Coady kept reminding me when I moaned to everyone I saw about it, I would have regretted it more than anything in my life if I hadn’t gone.

Picture stolen from Bobby, who also gets credit for sending the text that has already been subsumed into Temple-Bar-to-South-Circular lore: EVERYBODY TO WHELANS, I’M NOT BULLSHITTING.