Happy upcoming new year!!! Here’s an AnCo review :)
Well, here we are. This is the album that I’ve been thinking of ever since I began this discography dive. It’s an album that, from what I’ve seen, most people would consider to be Animal Collective’s masterpiece. It’s also the first AnCo album I ever listened to in full. While my discography dive began in early 2021, my first exposure to the band came about much earlier, in the form of this album. For this reason, it’s a little bit nostalgic to me too… but I’ll probably mention that later.
Animal Collective had last released Strawberry Jam to critical acclaim, leaving tons of fans (including Pitchfork!) wondering what might come next. Strawberry Jam is a very hard act to follow up; its experimentation, its iconic songs, and the very unique sound of it all makes it a milestone in AnCo’s discography. So, how DO they follow it up? The answer is this beauty of an album. This is the epitome of the AnCo sound, and it’s the album that they have been working toward for years. Bits and pieces of all of the music they’ve made so far can be seen in MPP, and it’s all sewn together into a total… experience.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is an experience to listen to. Not only are the songs some of the best the band has written; they are some of the most immersive and atmospheric as well. I’ve talked a lot about how certain songs in previous albums have evoked specific feelings or images in my mind, but MPP does this to a different level. I admit it might be slightly influenced by my nostalgia for this album, but these songs are some of the most emotional to me. I’m not sure. Like my Spirit review, I’ll go through this album one by one, but I’ll try to make it a little less structured. Hopefully I can capture just a bit of what this album makes me feel. :)
[Here, I begin the album]
Before I go through the tracks, I want to explain something a little weird about this review: to me, this album feels like a dream. AnCo has made dreamy music before, but for some reason, every song on MPP makes me imagine some dreamlike imagery while listening. The beautiful, soothing instrumentals combined with the occasionally cryptic lyrics create this feeling for me. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but this feeling is a large reason as to why I love the album so much. Hopefully I’m able to put aspects of it into words.
The opening track is “In The Flowers”, and it is tied with “Leaf House” as my favorite AnCo opener, ever. In the beginning of the song, I’m suddenly submerged in an ocean, and surrounded with strange, new noises. As the beautiful guitar begins to take over, I’m falling asleep, and watching the poetry of this song take place. The song’s lyrics are vague, but the way the verses describe various scenes make it seem as if they are meant more to represent specific emotions. The descriptions of a dancer and the subtle actions she makes makes it seem like a distant admiration, or maybe some sort of wishful thinking.
“If I could just leave my body for the night” - and the song descends into pure emotion! The scene I’m watching changes to an up-close confession of love and bliss! This is, in some ways, a love song; at this point in the song, its persona is opening up his heart to the figure of the dancer that he admires, and admitting that all he wants at this point is for them to be together. The sudden change back to the slower part of the song at the end seems to me like an end to the violent explosions of emotion in the middle, and a return to the subtle love of the beginning. This type of ‘love song’ - that is, a song showing off a strong emotion of love - seems to show up several times in the album, and the way that the band is able to portray this powerful display of emotion amazes me. “In The Flowers” really is a perfect opener.
And following it is “My Girls”! My dream now changes, and I am now floating along in a sort of space, listening to the thoughts of Panda Bear. This song is a clearer love song, but the focus of its love is different; this track expresses Panda Bear’s love for his wife and daughter, and describes the sureness with which he loves them. The song opens up, and I am immersed in warmth while more and more is added to the synths. The lyrics at this point show off the simplicity of this song: Panda Bear’s only true goal is to live a happy life with his family, and everything else can come second to that. It’s happy, and I feel happy along with it. It’s no surprise to me that this song is so popular; while the lyrics describe many various topics - materialism, love, and death - it all boils down to one simple emotion of love.
The chorus is amazing! Much of the instrumental falls away to allow Panda Bear’s voice to make his declarations; the sudden changes in chords takes me away from wherever I was, and I feel myself submerged in the lyrics’ messages. This song uses repetition brilliantly, and throughout the whole track, I can feel myself falling through the beautiful love it contains. Nearing the end, everything begins to fade away, and it feels as if it has passed me by; the love letter that is “My Girls” could have never ended, and I would never have wanted it to. From here, my dream continues.
The next song, “Also Frightened” is an exploration of a theme that has cropped up in AnCo’s songs ever since Spirit - childhood and growing up. It also continues the dream wonderfully; my surroundings slowly fade into a soothing outdoor area - probably at night. This song seems to me a bit like a lullaby in how relaxed every part of it is. The verses are especially cryptic, but they seem to be sort of childlike images, giving fantasy elements to everything around me. The chorus is a different part of this dream; the persona seems to ask a vague question, maybe out of concern for his children? The dreams he mentions aren’t the one I am watching this through - I’d guess he’s talking about the dreams and hopes of childhood, and whether or not they are being fulfilled. This is more love - this time, careful love out of worry.
This adventurous dream continues up to the bridge, where the message and the emotion changes. The question is no longer about the children, but rather a personal question, directed at the persona’s lover. “Are you also frightened?” A common source of comfort is in understanding, and that’s what is being searched for; the worried persona of this song is asking his lover for confirmation that his concerns are shared. The dream is opened up, and it envelops another person; this pure emotion is exposed to somebody else, and shared. I love this song much more than I did when I first heard it; in the beginning, I was put off by its slow, strange instrumental, but over time I have fallen in love with the emotions it conveys. This song fades out in the end, once again leaving behind its progressing emotional journey, allowing my dream to encounter a new story.
This next story is in the form of “Summertime Clothes”, and it is one of my favorite AnCo songs ever. This is one of the most story-driven parts of my dream; its sounds and descriptive lyrics evoke specific images in my head. Really, it’s exactly as the song describes; it’s a late summer night, and I can’t sleep. For some reason I can’t quite explain, this song sounds watery - maybe it feels like the humidity of summer. Of course, this isn’t just a song about a hot summer night - this is, once again, a love song, but this time the song is about a specific feeling in love, and it’s felt most in the humid, sleepless summer nights. At the end of the first verse, “You pick up the phone and I’m so relieved” - the two characters in this dream are similar, and they comfort each other when needed.
The continuation of this dream is a blurry, happy montage; the two characters are just having fun in the middle of the summer night, and that’s all that matters. It’s such a happy scene, I smile while dreaming it. The love in this song is expressed through the shared love for this specific tradition; the humid, dimly lit summer scene is pure happiness for both involved, and it’s confirmation of their love for each other. I feel like every word sung in the chorus and the middle few verses is just a pure exposure of that emotion; every moment described is just a representation of the love in this relationship. “Just you, just you, just you…” Everything described here is associated with this person. What a love song!
I don’t know exactly what it is, but something about the instrumental of “Summertime Clothes” helps to perfectly convey the story told in the lyrics. The beating drum backed by the alternating synths seems overpowering to me, and the chorus seems to wash over me, with the emotion in the lyrics giving light and color to everything I’m dreaming of. It sounds like a party at night, and maybe this helps me feel the joy described. I love this song so much. Also worth noting here, before I move onto the next track, that “Summertime Clothes” is the beginning of what I consider to be AnCo’s greatest 3-song run.
The second of those 3 songs is “Daily Routine”. This song is the first that I’d consider to be truly… out there? All of the previous songs have incorporated strange, experimental elements you’d expect in AnCo’s music, but “Daily Routine” and its strange song structure are totally different. It opens with light, glitchy noises occurring seemingly randomly; it’s a very loose feeling in the beginning, and as the sounds speed up, I’m watching the song gather itself together. Suddenly, the dream bursts back into motion. I’m inside, in a warm place, separate from the cold outside. This song fits with the holidays right now - I don’t feel like doing much, and I just want to relax and enjoy the present.
This song has a lovely meaning: it seems to be essentially about taking time and enjoying the little things you love. The chorus - “Just a sec more in my bed” - shows off that carefree feeling; I don’t want to have to wake up and do anything, all I want is a little more time to be happy and lazy. This feeling is shared by the instrumental, which is pretty sparse and relaxed. Of course, the big change in this song occurs about halfway through; the glitchy noises briefly flood and take over, and then the song changes to a very slow, floating tune, a little reminiscent of earlier-2000s AnCo. It’s like falling asleep, or just sitting back and feeling relaxed. The ending of this song lasts about 3 minutes, and it’s one of the calmest moments on the album. Maybe what this song describes is an ideal “Daily Routine”. Sleeping in, paying attention to the smaller things that remind you of how happy you are, and just stopping and enjoying the present. The change in this song is, in my dream, an out-of-body experience; suddenly, I’m watching this daily routine and the life it’s in from the outside, and enjoying every second of the scene. I want to float away to the end of this.
The next song, “Bluish”, is possibly my favorite Animal Collective song of all time. Even for this beautiful album, its loving vocals and the unbelievably delightful instrumental make it stand out to me. Not even just as the most powerful of the love songs here - for some reason, I’ve always experienced this part of the dream tinged with sadness, and filled with deeper emotions. It is, in my opinion, a perfect song. I don’t think there’s anything that could make it better, aside from maybe making it last longer. It’s also my favorite part of the dream.
It sounds underwater. Not that I’m imagining it being underwater, but the intimate production on this song makes it sound like it’s surrounding me, and I’m totally immersed in the music. The dream, however, is an isolated picture of just two people in winter (always winter, for some reason). This really is the perfect love song, and every aspect of the music contributes to the pure emotion in what’s being sung. Avey Tare sings this, but it seems as if it could be by some inhuman entity. Before I’ve even gotten to the vocals, though, the initial watery sounds fade into the most beautiful guitar part ever. The song brings itself together, and the dream takes shape.
It’s a statement of love. The persona is in love with every single aspect of their partner, and in a serious, sleepy way, they are trying to convey it in any way they can. Approaching the chorus, the emotions behind what is said build up, and prepare to break apart in a beautiful display. When the chorus arrives, it’s like a relieving flood of love; the joy in mundane moments is a continued theme, and it shows off how serious this song’s persona is in their confessions of love. It’s like a dance in my dream; every emotion is seen in every movement made in this scene painted by the poetic lyrics. It happens over and over again. It’s like falling in love. It seems to me like this chorus should never change, but it does, and the ending of this song brings together the love and the meaning seen in mundane objects to show how much the partner means to them. This song ends suddenly, and I’m left drifting in the last notes of the song. I love this song. It’s perfect.
“Guys Eyes” is the next song, and it feels much more relaxed in comparison to the swelling emotion of “Bluish”. This is a bit of a more musically experimental song, especially vocally; the singing throughout the song is often layered over itself, to make the voices more of an instrument. It’s atmospheric - the verses make it feel like I’m being swept over by the many voices. It’s relaxed and happy, and it feels very nature-y. Each different part of this song gives off a different vibe that feels like it would be at home in some natural scene.
The middle and the end of the song are what really stand out to me, as those are the moments when the song folds in on itself, and tries to expand one bit of the track into much more. In the middle, “need her” is repeated over a changing instrumental - one that’s quite different from the verses. The atmosphere of this part slowly builds up, with more energy rising in the background. Then, at the end, “what I want” is repeated over and over, again over a changing instrumental. These two parts juxtapose each other nicely, with the middle building up dramatically, and the ending descending into a totally different sound. “Need” and “want” represent these two parts, and the overall meaning of the song, which is, to be honest, not all that subtle.
But it transitions perfectly into the next song, “Taste”. By FAR one of my favorite instrumentals on the album, it’s so weird and fun! Gone are the scenes of nature, and the fairly back-and-forth, mechanical sounds of this song evoke images of the inside of a building; it’s like clockwork. This song is so underrated! The melodies are a ton of fun, and it’s a lovely little adventure hidden within the more emotional moments on this album. Not that this song doesn’t have a deeper meaning behind it - it’s actually one of the more introspective songs on MPP.
It’s about taste! More specifically, it’s about what people like and don’t like, and how those opinions and thoughts create each of us. This song sounds like building oneself, if that makes sense. In the lyrics, the persona considers what others choose to surround themselves with, and what it says about each person. “And don’t go changing clothes when they don’t like yours” is the epitome of the song - don’t care what others think about various aspects that make up yourself, stay true to yourself and know what everything you like says about you. The ending, repeating, “Am I really all the things that are outside of me?” shows the questioning of what people really are. It’s a little scary, really, wondering how much of an influence everything around us has on who we are. But this is a comforting dream - how much does that matter, anyway? “Taste” is a very fun little song, with some of my favorite electronic sounds on the album. But it ends, and I continue.
And next is “Lion in a Coma”, probably the most… divisive? Of the songs on this album? This is understandable, because the song opens with some of the weirdest noises on the album. Very boingy. The first half of the song seems fast - I’m following some sparse thoughts, but they’re going by too quickly for me to totally understand. It’s nervous, maybe. The dream is rushing past various happy people, and never stopping for me to see.
The second half of this song seems to collect some scattered thoughts and show the inside of the persona’s mind. The earlier chorus describing a wilderness in a head seems to be a good description of what’s being experienced here; the persona in this song appears to struggle with their thoughts and what they should do in life. It’s all very jumbled and confusing - this is a depiction of what’s going on in the persona’s mind, though. It’s quick and wild. I suppose. It’s a weird song, I admit, but I still love it; it’s one of the brightest, strangest moments of the dream that is MPP.
“No More Runnin” is the part of the dream that I’ve been waiting for. It’s the most relaxing part of this entire album, and I love every second of this song. It combines various themes from earlier songs, and adds a new layer of… laziness, I suppose. This song is about stopping and relaxing. It considers various other events in life, and focuses on the joy in having reached the most important goals and not having to keep working toward others. Specifically, this song seems to be about happily settling down with a spouse.
This part of the dream is floating and warm like so many other parts of this album; it’s relaxed and happy, and this emotion bleeds through in every part of this song. The soft sounds of every instrument make it seem like I’m asleep, listening to a lullaby. This part of the dream is like a confirmation that, yes, I can take the time to simply be happy. I feel like I’m softly landing on the ground. This could’ve been the ending of the album, and I would have totally understood it. This could be the ending of a dream - it’s a combination of enjoyment of everything I’ve experienced and preparation for anything else I have to do. It could also be drifting off, which would be a perfect sending-off for this album.
But it isn’t - the last song steps up now, and it is “Brother Sport”. What a juxtaposition! It’s so fast and happy! It’s very chill and lighthearted; it sounds like it could have been created just for one person to hear, that being the brother that so many of the lyrics are directed at. It’s very optimistic and helpful! While many of the other parts of this dream have felt like watching a story take place, or peeking into someone’s mind, this song feels like instructions. It sounds like every part of it was designed to make me happy.
I really don’t know what to say about it - this song sounds so joyfully supportive, it’s cathartic to hear. Every aspect of the bouncing instrumental that builds throughout the song sounds like it’s meant to make you want to dance - this song is so wonderfully happy and good in heart that I find it near impossible to listen to without wanting to get up and do something with it playing in the background. This does make a perfect exit to the dream, it’s an encouragement at the end. During the repeated lyrics at the end, I feel like I’m rising to the top of the ocean. This sounds like an ending - it’s a total conclusion to this album. A great note to end on.
[Very Brief Conclusion to this review]
Well, as tends to be the case when I do these track-by-track reviews, this one turned out to be a bit of a mess. Yuck. I hope my point got through, though - this album is one of my all time favorites, and Animal Collective’s clear masterpiece. This is the highlight of the AnCo discography! If you’re only going to listen to one album by the band, I highly recommend this one. I hope you find as much love and beauty in this album as I do.
Despite how long it’s taking, I am enjoying this discography dive so far, and I look forward to continuing it. 😎
Favorite Songs: In The Flowers, My Girls, Summertime Clothes, Daily Routine, Bluish, Taste, No More Runnin, Brother Sport
Least Favorite Songs: If I absolutely had to pick one, I guess it’d be Lion In A Coma.
[End of 2021]
Yuck, I’m tired of these messy reviews - I plan to continue writing, and I hope to get better. My next review, whatever album it’ll be for, will hopefully be much more concise and well-written lol. 2021 has been a great year for music, and I’m really thankful to everyone on this site for helping me discover it all. Special thanks to CC, knewnie, reedy, nightshadely, all of nurture chat, and many others for helping me improve my writing and myself.
|1||In the Flowers / 100|
|2||My Girls / 95|
|3||Also Frightened / 95|
|4||Summertime Clothes / 100|
|5||Daily Routine / 100|
|6||Bluish / 100|
|7||Guys Eyes / 95|
|8||Taste / 100|
|9||Lion in a Coma / 90|
|10||No More Runnin / 95|
|11||Brother Sport / 95|