Sometimes being a fanboy pays off. I’ve never quite understood the cult of Animal Collective — starting with Sung Tongs in 2004, I’ve followed and often enjoyed their career, but rarely felt them deserving of the acclaim and almost mindless devotion thrown their way. Merriweather Post Pavillion is that rare album that, yes, lives up to the hype. Believe it: this is the sound of AC turned adult, a mature record that bakes all the myriad ingredients of their discography into a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”-sized pot brownie. The druggy, psychadelic sound that Strawberry Jam ignored and Feels and Sung Tongs were too lo-fi to embrace is on full display here, but otherwise the album feels like a career summation — less Hail to the Thief and more Rubies. It’s a victory lap, and a largely improved one — the clarity and force of Strawberry Jam clearly taught them a lesson: tape loops of burping are not an essential arrangement tool.
Still, the album’s plenty bubbly, and it all sounds like vintage AC refreshed and rejuvenated — like the old song goes, if they knew what they know now when they were younger, they’d more than deserve the Band of the Decade tag that’s sure to get thrown at them in the coming year. (Other, somewhat viable options: Wilco, Radiohead [too ’90s], White Stripes [too Cold Mountain], Spoon [OK, yeah], Kanye [he did already call dibs], TV on the Radio [too NPR].) “Into the Flowers” is sweet and surreal until the bridge unleashes the fury; “My Girls” plants their trademark crooked rhythms inside one of their best melodies. The whole first side is probably the best run they’ve ever put together, and the songs that follow don’t disappoint.
Some records are so bad they make one return to a band’s whole catalog to re-evaluate. For the uninitiated, Merriweather Post Pavillion might do the opposite. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you too, 2009.
2009: We’ve only just begun. Click below for more white lace and promises.