Today sees the release of the album of the year. There you go, I thought I’d start this post with the kind of outlandish statement that I’m sure I’ll regret sometime around mid-March. I know it’s only the start of the second week of the year and I have no idea of what’s coming next (to quote the sage words of Donald Rumsfeld, “There are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know”), but, on the strength of “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective, I’m saying we already have a winner, folks.
Animal Collective have been on radar for a while now, releasing 9 albums since the start of the decade. I’m sure to many they might seem like one of those bands that people chin-scratch and pontificate over; a band it was easy to admire but hard to love. Occasionally, it might seem as if they were laughing at a joke that you just weren’t in on. Not so now.
“Merriweather Post Pavilion” has a glorious, who-gives-a-fuck confidence, the kind a band gets when they effortlessly hit their stride just when no-one is looking. Think “Screamadelica”, think the last Elbow album or “The Soft Bulletin”. The record is reminiscent at times of afore-nodded-at Flaming Lips, only less like the festival headlining “Yoshimi” playing rock band we saw a few summers back and more like your own drunken attempt to synchronize all four “Zaireeka” CDs at once while your stoned mate attempts to DJ dubstep in the background. Harmonies float in and out; bass pulses pummel in from nowhere then just as quickly disappear; noise washes over melody like waves nuzzling up to the shore. The whole listening experience is something akin to walking round Glastonbury at 4 in the morning when your body’s in one field and your brain is lying untended in another.
Collectively, the songs on the album bring to mind Brian Wilson’s phrase about making “teenage symphonies to God”. This is what a modern day version of “Smile” might sound like – harmonic, shambolic, chaotic, euphoric. The closest thing that the record has to a single (you know the stuff – a proper structure, a chorus, all that jazz), “Summertime Clothes”, fuses a Glitter Band stomp to an acid house thump, creating something truly magical, the kind of record that makes you want to go out dancing – luckily for everyone who knows me, that happens very rarely these days.
Hailing from Baltimore (hey – how can one city produce The Wire and a band who sound like they’ve been beamed from a glorious future where acid is now the stimulant of choice), Animal Collective are forward thinking and evolutionary, like Fleet Foxes playing live on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is the perfect record for today, the most miserable day of the year. It actually brings out the sunshine, if only in your head.
Sometimes though, that really is enough.