January 8, 2009
Humanism in Electronic Pop
It’s been almost five years since I realized that I was in love with the Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-bred band Animal Collective. I had fired up Sung Tongs, expecting something vaguely similar to Iron and Wine’s The Creek Drank the Cradle, Devendra Banhart’s Rejoicing in the Hands, or Joanna Newsom’s “Bridges and Balloons,” all of which, like the Collective, had been branded as “freak-folk” by that year’s musical ethnographers. The other signposts indicated were the Smile-era Beach Boys.
Instead, there was this weird sound — “Leaf House” — that didn’t quite work in headphones or at parties or in your car, but rattled around in your brain. The harmonies on “Who Could Win A Rabbit” paid off the Beach Boys campfire rumors, but I still didn’t quite know what to do with it. Finally, “Kids on Holiday” won me over. Its lo-fi strum, its fleeting, wavering, erotic yelps, and solemnly intoned lyrics about a Felliniesque trip to the airport, replete with surreal details (“the smell of pajamas”) and quotable asides (“Where the hell have I got to?”). It was Pet Sounds, but polymorphously perverse.
This is a very roundabout way to say that AC’s new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is out — and it’s very different from those weird not-quite-folky sounds on Sung Tongs. But it’s even more awesome. I’m pencilling Animal Collective in as the best indie-alternative band of the decade.