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15 Years of Merriweather Post Pavilion

This month marks fifteen years since the release of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009. When I was only six and practicing addition facts in my first grade classroom, the indie scene was absorbing what has aged to be one of the most iconic psychedelic pop albums of the 21st century. Arguably their most accessible album (besides possibly 2023’s Isn’t It Now?), MPP is a more marketable angle on the sounds they explored in their 2007 album Strawberry Jam. However, some major differences include the use of a classic verse-chorus song structure and increased bass in the mix. Still, the band maintains their strange lyricism and avant-garde ambient choices throughout the album. Animal Collective creates a wall of sound throughout each song where each note appears muffled in whatever noise is already smothering the song. A fan favorite moment in any piece of Animal Collective’s work tends to be at the halfway mark of the opening track “In the Flowers” where the calm and tonally unclear first half of the song is essentially interrupted by a glamorous explosion of offbeat pulsating synths and drums just after the lyric “if I could just leave my body for the night”. The album then transitions into what remains the band’s biggest hit, “My Girls”. The pulsating synths continue and Panda Bear sings about just being able to provide a stable home for his wife and daughter, save material possessions. A less than obvious formula for an indie cult classic, but years later the shiny sounds and homey lyrics have stapled their place in the indie scene. My personal favorite track and top song of last year, “Summertime Clothes”, feels like the hysteria of a sleep deprived 2AM open highway road trip with the windows down to buy a milkshake with friends. Lyrically, it quite literally is with lines like, “it doesn’t really matter, I’ll go where you feel; hunt for the breeze, get a midnight meal.” The words oscillate up and down adding to the hysterical feeling but the message zones in after all the chaos of each verse saying, “and I want to walk around with you; and be here with you, we’re going.” The rest of the album continues with these musical themes and rhythms, opting to write about less conventional topics. The song “Taste” includes one of my favorite lyrics ever, “Am I really all the things that are outside of me? Would I complete myself without the things I like around?” Paradoxically the running theme of simplicity in many of the songs is covered by a noisy eclectic swarm of synths and noise. Every song here tells a story beyond just the lyrics. While many experimental bands trade meaning for a gimmick, Animal Collective uses their unconventional sound to add to the story of each song instead. Impressively, MPP only showcases one side of the band’s musical ability, but that said, it showcases their ability at a time when they were at a creative peak. If you are a fan of experimental pop music and haven’t heard MPP yet, I hope that you do soon. After fifteen years, its grandeur sound still captivates fans new and old.

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