Have you guys heard that Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion is the best album of 2009? No? No, really, Stereogum and other like-minded blogs are giving this the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” treatment. The reviews are off the charts. From a fan perspective, these guys are starting to feel a little like the indie rock version of Phish in the mid-90s – “They are so AMAZING, maaan”. They also seem to be poised for the inevitable Strokes-style backlash. No worries. We like to think we are somewhat unaffected by the hype. If it’s good, it’s good. If not, you’ll see a post here deriding it as such, with a reference to ball-punching thrown in, though I’m not sure why this is a recurring theme. Maybe because buying a Grizzly Bear record and having Luis Castillo as your 2nd basemen are both as brutal as the pit you get in your solar plexes after being punched in the huevos. But I digress.
Speaking of a kick to the ‘nads, some punk sold me counterfeit tickets, which made for a long and painfully freezing process of actually getting myself into this insanely hyped and sold out show. I did finally get in as the third song was coming to an end and basically was immediately engulfed by a huge wave of tribal beats, percussion, electronic blips, samples, fuzzy guitar and keyboard sounds. And somewhere in the background there were all these sweet, Brian Wilson style pop melodies with two guys (Panda Bear singing as the smoove soprano and Avey Tare rocking the mic by using a more plain-spoken style) basically harmonizing with each other. It’s a pretty wild sound that basically translates into a danceable and melodic trance that is not that different from dub or other types of world music. But it has a lot more stuff than just that going on – elements of hip hop, indie pop and electronica are all thrown in.
It goes on and on. These guys have a sound that’s hard to categorize, so I will spare you the tired Rolling Stone-style comparisons, like “Kraftwerk meets the Beach Boys in an open field”. You get the idea. Point is: these guys are the real deal. Go see them. The music really draws you in and doesn’t let you out. They have sing-along verses (“I want to walk around with you…” from “Summertime Clothes" immediately comes to mind) that then veer off into this wild electronic interlude and then back into the verse and chorus, like Dickey Betts does with his blues guitar on “Whipping Post”. Only there’s no blues here. It’s all basically electronic, yet it still manages to have a warm, improvisational vibe to it. You can see why people call them a jam band, you can see why the indie kids love them and you can definitely see them being a huge attraction on the festival circuits in the late-night tents.
Aside from the wild sound, one of the coolest aspects of the live show is the fact that 3 guys are all basically sitting in front of samplers, keyboards and drum kits, switching from one to the other while harmonizing over the rhythm tracks. Avey Tare sometimes takes the mic and dances around and sometimes he plays guitar (like he did throughout “Fireworks”, which is one of the better live songs I have seen since Arcade Fire rocked out “Wake Up”), Panda Bear stands in front of his keyboard / sampler and sings throughout and Geologist just mans the sampler and lays down the beats while rocking a sweet head lamp. Sometimes they use their voices as instruments, sometimes they are very much lost in the mix (as was the case on “Lost in a Coma”), blending in as just another weird sound. Half way through each song you start to wonder how they even arrive at the overall sound, and then the song switches and goes off in another direction.
This is all along-winded way of saying that: (1) the guy that sold me the fake tickets is a complete asshole, (2) the new album is indeed awesome, and (3) you need to check these guys out at some point real soon.
Lion in a Coma
Comfy In Nautica (Panda Bear)