Wednesday, January 28, 2009
1. Franz Ferdinand - "Ulysses"
2. Tom Gabel - "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon"
3. The Killers - "A Dustland Fairytale"
4. Kings of Leon - "Closer"
5. Shiny Toy Guns - "When Did This Storm Begin?"
6. Longwave - "Shining Hours"
7. Snow Patrol - "If There's A Rocket Tie Me To It"
8. Foreign Orange - "Another Suggestion"
9. The Deep Vibration - "Oklahoma City Woman Blues"
10. The B.P.A. - "He's Frank"
Vulture Whale - "Tote It To Cleveland, Al"
Howlies - "Sea Level"
The Priddle Concern - "Make It Go Away"
Los Campesinos! - "Ways To Make It Through The Wall"
Cut Off Your Hands - "Happy As Can Be"
Two Tongues - "Back Against The Wall"
Death to the Details - "Lessons In Animation"
Sleepsound - "The Lead"
Union County - "Who Am I"
Betting 4 Benson - "Remembering Amy"
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
by: Daniel Earney
Is this the album of the year? Widely read music blog, Stereogum.com, has posed this same question. Five days into 2009, Pitchfork Media gave Merriweather a 9.6 out of 10 rating. Pitchfork never gives ratings that high. Metacritic.com, which compiles reviews from sources across all forms of media, has the album sitting at 91 out of 100 on their scale. Uncut magazine has proclaimed, "It feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far." The question still remains: Is it really?
It's hard to compare any band as unique and striking as Animal Collective to any other band; that leaves, as a comparison, the band itself. As someone who has listened to every Animal Collective album and EP, Merriweather Post Pavilion seems like both an expected progression and somewhat of a let down -- possibly even a commercial/critical cop-out. Again, using Pitchfork.com as a reference, the Collective's 2007 album Strawberry Jam received an astounding 9.3. Reviewer Mark Richardson hailed "the album and its transcendent centerpiece, 'Bros,' [as] deservedly being widely considered among the year's best." Yet, the album that Pitchfork proclaimed as album of the year was Animal Collective member Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox's solo album, Person Pitch. The difference between Panda Bear and Animal Collective -- it's safer, it's slower, and it's easier on the ears.
Where, on Person Pitch, Noah Lennox's soft, endearing voice floats gently upon synthetic beats and atmospheric tones, Avey Tare's impassioned shrieks and unorthodox vocals on Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam attack the listener head-on. It's also what seems to annoy people most about Animal Collective. On MPP, Animal Collective take heed of Avey's obtrusive vocal tendencies, restricting his outbursts to the simple "Whoo"s on the album's first single, "My Girls." I have to say, I'm saddened by this. Nowhere in music could you hear a sound like Animal Collective, vocally, musically, or otherwise. Merriweather takes every notion of what Animal Collective once was (in the sense of every album prior to MPP), puts it on a leash, and ties it up in front of Rolling Stone headquarters.
Another thing I noticed: Pitchfork's Best Songs of 2008 is heavily laden with electronic and dance music (Hercules and Love Affair, Santogold, Hot Chip, Cut/Copy, Air France, Portishead, and Estelle ft. Kanye West all making the top 10.). Even a cursory listen of MPP is sure to get your feet moving, and I dare say there's hardly a guitar to be found on the whole album. I guess what I'm saying is that this feels like a changing of the guard. Where Avey Tare once dictated the Animal Collective sound, the band now seems to follow Panda Bear's lead.
The good news is that this is not entirely a bad thing. Geologist's exquisitely layered electronic textures, sounds, and rhythms will beckon endless listens. The harmonies and interplay between Panda and Avey are gorgeous and sophisticated. As far as content, it's easy to tell that the members have grown up (after all they attended college in the late 1990's). "My Girls" isn't the budding club song that the title might imply, but rather an homage to familial love ("I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls.) and anti-materialism. My favorite track, "Summertime Clothes" is a swirling array of liquid synthesized riffs with an irresistible chorus that makes me long for warm days of August. The tinkling and atmospheric "Bluish" is utterly hypnotic, echoic the sentiment of "I'm getting lost in your curls." The Collective sounds a bit Australian (or perhaps "White Fang"-ish) on "Guys Eyes." Yet from there, the album seems to take a temporal dive until the album's closer, "Brother Sport."
In all, Merriweather Post Pavilion is more cohesive, which is perhaps why it is receiving so much praise. However, I'm not sure if I'm ready to see a shift in the American music psyche (as Uncut magazine points toward) this far in the electronic direction. Yet, if the results are as intriguing and satisfying as Animal Collective show us it can be, I may have to change my mind. 8.5 out of 10.
Download: "Summertime Clothes," "My Girls," "Bluish," and "Brother Sport."