Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are You Also Frightened?

Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Animal Collective

Joe and I were discussing, just a few hours ago, the declining frequency with which something truly impresses us as we get older. It is perfectly natural, and to be expected; the more you see, the more you realise how little truly stands out, and how little is as unique as it seems. The downsides to this are extremely hazardous; you can spend long stretches of time feeling as though nothing is capable of eliciting a strong response from you anymore, and that's the beginning of the absence of humanity. The upside is less obvious; when something manages to punch a whole through the monotony, it creates a sensation of purset joy.

Merriweather Post Pavilion, the first Animal Collective album I have listened to, was a revelation. My first instinct with most albums is to appreciate them intellectualy. I have to work at simply experiencing the music. MPP swept me away without ever seeming to try. The only other album I've experienced on such a gutteral level was Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago (see right), an alt-folk gem you should listen to if you haven't. That is an album which manages to perfectly relate the feelings of isolation and disappointment and heartbreak. Animal Collective's album is a celebration of purest joy, without strings and without second thoughts. It's... it's liberating, is what it is.

And it helps that the sound is so unique. The instrumentation is largely, if not entirely, electronic. Animal Collective function as just that, a collective, and their guitarist skipped out on this album. The song structures go all over the place, but they never seem haphazard or random. The songs evolve more so than they progress. But what really set this apart, and, from what I understand, is characteristic of all their albums, is the vocal style. It's not speaking on pitch, but it's not singing. I've never actually heard anything quite like this before; it's almost chanting, but it's too melodic, and too smooth. For me, the most powerful moment of the album was during the track "Also Frightened," when singer Panda Bear asks, "Are you also frightened?" It is as powerful and sincere as music gets.

Grade: A-

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