From The Editor – Ok, I'll Be The One To Say It, The New Animal Collective Album Is…

herd

Today we have unveiled our review of the highly anticipated, much internet-sheriffed about new Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavilion. And like many of our contemporaries, we find it to be quite an enjoyable listen. But exactly one week into 2009 and it’s already being proclaimed the best record of the year, with some giving it higher praise than any release in all of 2008. And so I am left to wonder; am I the only one who isn’t even sure it’s the best record I’ve gotten in the last week, let alone all of this year and last?

To be certain, it is a beautiful record; one that I assigned to one of our more critical writers in the hopes that he would find something that didn’t sit well with him, only to be greeted with his overstated joy. And upon reading Flavorwire’s interview with Pitchfork editor Mark Richardson, I have a better understanding of why they chose to rate it so high. Yet earlier this week, when we simply stated that all the publications are elbowing their way to be the first to bow down to it, it elicited a comment of “don’t pretend like you’re not ready to bow down to this record as well. It’s fucking incredible and you know it.” Fair enough, but in an odd twist of irony, the commenter went on to add, “and please don’t turn into the next holier than thou Pitchfork snob website.”

That added jab became the incentive for this editorial, because it led me to hypothetically ask Chris (the name under which the comment was left), “if we — as music ‘journalists’ — are not to be critical of the music laid out before us, then who is?” I know the reason I started reading Pitchfork was not because they were critical and at times, demeaning, but because they had a definitive voice. One that you trusted, and would hope to give you insight that other, less confrontational sources like The Chicago Tribune, Paste Magazine, Spin were afraid to bring up. So does this speak more to Pitchfork watering down their content to fill a wider audience range, or — and the stance I take — that we as listeners and the music industry as a whole are looking so desperately for some reason, any reason, to believe that this year can be filled with a summery disposition like the one displayed on Merriweather Post Pavailion. That no matter what is to come in ’09, it has to be better than last year?

It’s as though Animal Collective is the musical equivalent of Barack Obama. They don’t have to do anything extraordinary in order to save us from our daily doldrums. They just need to be. Sure, in the end Merriweather meets — or excedes — our expectations, but it doesn’t matter what it sounds like. It didn’t matter for the past three months when everyone was trying to get their hands on it, and the band and their label were successful (for the most part) at keeping it away from the masses, building the expectations even more. Maybe that’s what the anticipation was built upon. Maybe it’s not the band that we cared about or that we all were interested to hear what the album sounded like, but we wanted to be the first to say we’ve heard the record. To exclaim its amazingness before anyone else. I mean, The Tripwire is already really late in posting our review a mere three days after it’s vinyl release (note: not CD or digital yet).

Like Richardson explained in the Flavorwire interview, much of the excitement and anticipation comes from not knowing what Animal Collective will do next. The fact you cannot predict what sound they will embody from record to record is one of their biggest assets. As he goes on to say that while a lot of people will want to compare them to Radiohead because of the experimentation and departure from “conventional” pop-music, that “one thing with Radiohead, is that every album had at least a few tunes that could fairly be described as ‘rock songs.’ You could tell what all the instruments were, there are guitars, etc., but that’s not really true with [Merriweather Post Pavilion].”

The Radiohead comparisons are both justified and lofty praise for a band that used to wear masks. But in the end it doesn’t matter what Pitchfork, myself, yourself, or anyone thinks, because music is only as deep as the moment we are listening to it. Once it’s off and the criticism begins, it loses any value. So to answer Chris, I can only say that I will continue be that “holier than thou” opinionated asshole, because someone has to try and weed through the herd mentality. Even if the herd is right.

And in case Chris or anyone else is wondering, I think that Merriweather Post Pavilion is a wonderfully produced record. Possibly one of the best produced records of the last decade. And it’s the lush and sonic beauty of the production which makes it a better-than-good record. Still, the songwriting — in my humble opinion — is only average, with many of the songs sounding very similar, even repetitive and blending into one another at times. Maybe this is intentional, maybe it’s not, but as a whole it is not nearly as poppy as Strawberry Jam or innovative as Sung Tongs (still my favorite Animal Collective album to date). I will listen to it often and thoroughly many more times, but if I were to make any comparisons, it would be to another band’s monumental opus.

Merriweather Post Pavilion will inevitably be Animal Collective’s Pet Sounds. You will either think it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, or a record that will remain critically acclaimed and on your shelf while you reach for Strawberry Jam. Either way, it will forever be remembered. As for a number? I’ll give it a 7.5.

POSTED January 9, 2009 6:37PM IN THE TRIPWIRE Comments (20) TAGS: , , ,

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COMMENTS

  1. Eric says:

    Animal Collective is dull. Don’t get it. Though it may have something to do with a few generations raised on downers and fear of sex.

  2. Matt says:

    You say “am I the only one who isn’t even sure it’s the best record I’ve gotten in the last week, let alone all of this year and last?”
    Do tell what other albums you got last week that may challenge this!

  3. james says:

    Get out of my brain!!!

    And into my car…

  4. Capt. Colours says:

    internet hype seems too = sales …. so publicists and labels ‘think’. i like this band, but this ain’t no Pet Sounds, White Album, or Miles Davis shit. Just Sayin’

  5. The_Beard says:

    Well reasoned. When I did the interview with Mark, one point I wished we could have explored further was the idea of snap judgment and how, in some ways, a very high rating soon after something is out is different than a retrospective rating, like the one he gave Neutral Milk Hotel. I think this 9.6, like the .4 that came for another record the next day, are in some ways broad strokes to indicate enthusiasm. Basically, there are things you like and things you want to say “Seriously guys, this is something you HAVE to listen to.” That’s different than definitively declaring something a classic. It’s a service more than anything else.

  6. Worst albums of the year

  7. Jim says:

    I dunno, I still like Feels more than anything else they’ve done. Great post!

  8. Me says:

    It’s good, not second coming of jesus good. not bad. Not the best of 2009. Unless someone went into the future and realized that the future is crappy music.

  9. Maceo says:

    Comparing AC to Obama? Is this editorial more about someone’s fear of change and forward progress? What is this critique really about? The only positive aspect in this piece addresses the production quality of MPP… Wow, really? You don’t have to be negative just for the sake of being different. Seriously, you should be forced to give up your copy of the album to someone who truly deserves it. Lastly, what the hell did you pick up this week that even remotely challenges MPP?

  10. maura says:

    Jeez, the fanboying of animal collective fans will never cease, will it. “What the hell did you pick up this week that even remotely challenges MPP?” Really? How about Fever Ray? How about Ida Maria? How about ANY RECORD that doesn’t sound like it was “raised on downers and fear of sex”? Stop acting like Jonas Brothers fans (“wahh, I got butthurt, someone hurt me by not liking the band I have posters of in my locker!”) and start acting like human beings who realize that other people can have different opinions than you, and that they might even not be wrong.

  11. shb says:

    thank you. the “herd” picture is gold.

  12. Pingback: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Zero” | The Tripwire

  13. I hate the suspense. I just wanna know dang it! lol.

  14. i saw them at the gibson ampitheartre here in LA they rocked so hard!!! I LOVE U NICK JONAS!! lol wow that does not sound like me.

  15. i loved this song wen i first herd iy. now i love it more

  16. Steve says:

    This record sounds like they turned 40 overnight and listened to too much steeley dan and the eagles. Totally lame and boring. They’d almost be good compositions except they all sound the damn same. I will say it’s a marked improvement over Feels and Strawberry Jam but is still totally whack. poopoo.

  17. This is a very good read. Im gonna be tweeting this post. Jonas Brothers are awesome!

  18. “am I the only one who isn’t even sure it’s the best record I’ve gotten in the last week, let alone all of this year and last?”

    (NO. Absolutely not.)

    “Still, the songwriting — in my humble opinion — is only average, with many of the songs sounding very similar, even repetitive and blending into one another at times.”

    I agree, but I would go so far as to say “below-average.” Plus, I might even throw “boring” into the mix, but I’m obviously biased against Animal Collective: http://www.lasvegascritics.com/reviews/animal-collective-merriweather-post-pavilion.html

  19. I emenselyliked your site on geckos I found it very informative and will be coming back soon

  20. Nicki Minaj says:

    Nicki Minaj’s next single Right Through Me is really a great blessing. The chorus is great and she proves that she is still lyrical in the verses!