Judging by the arrival on yesterday’s blog of a bunch of fans asking me to leak “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, there’s a fair bit of anticipation for this new Animal Collective album that I got hold of on Monday. Unfortunately, folks, I’m not going to leak this, or any other album, because: a) I like to play nice; b) I’d get sacked if I did leak it (the CD is watermarked with my name, so it’d be traceable if I uploaded it); and c) I’m much too technically incompetent to do that, in any case. Hope that’s clear.

Judging by the arrival on yesterday’s blog of a bunch of fans asking me to leak “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, there’s a fair bit of anticipation for this new Animal Collective album that I got hold of on Monday. Unfortunately, folks, I’m not going to leak this, or any other album, because: a) I like to play nice; b) I’d get sacked if I did leak it (the CD is watermarked with my name, so it’d be traceable if I uploaded it); and c) I’m much too technically incompetent to do that, in any case. Hope that’s clear.



What I can do is be a tease and tell you how great this, maybe the ninth, Animal Collective album is. It’s interesting to see all the excitement surrounding “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, since there seemed to be something of a small backlash against the band following last year’s “Strawberry Jam”; too pop and accessible, seemed to be a consensus, though to me it seemed to be a logical step on from “Feels” (if not quite as good).

Already, the buzz around this one is that it’s more in the vein of Panda Bear’s solo “Person Pitch” album from 2006 – closer in spirit to dance music, I suppose. That turns out to be partially true: there’s definitely a hint of minimalist techno – the Kompakt label especially, maybe – pulsing through the background of some of these songs. The fantastic “Summertime Clothes” even starts with something similar to one of those electronic Glitter Band beats that became hip as Schaffel a few years ago.There are some ferocious, quaking jeep bass frequencies throughout, too, that nail down the flighty top end of the AC sound with the muscle of hip hop.

And there’s an extraordinary passage in the closing “Brothersport” that’s as close to pure techno as the band have ever come, faintly resembling a maximalist take on Underground Resistance (or so it seemed on the bus this morning. Bear with me, these are early thoughts).

But unlike “Person Pitch”, these 11 songs are generally too complex and tricksy to rest merely on reverberant loops. It’s traditional to compare Animal Collective to The Beach Boys, thanks to those gaseous harmonies constructed by Avey Tare and Panda Bear. On “Merriweather”, they’ve become more and more elaborate, with intricate melodies layered on top of another to create an ecstatic whole. If there’s a Beach Boys analogue to the gorgeous love song, “Bluish”, for instance, it’d be one of those compacted symphonies from “Pet Sounds” like “Waiting For The Day”.

It’s easy to throw those Beach Boys comparisons at anything with multiplied falsettos, but here, more than ever, it seems justified. There’s a sense of adventure and wonder at the heart of Animal Collective’s music. I’ve written before about how I see them as sort of successors to Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips; as makers of a folksy American pop music with a transformative spirit and an experimental imperative.

Listening to “Merriweather” for maybe the fourth or fifth time right now, I can’t help thinking of Mercury Rev’s latest disappointment, “Snowflake Midnight”, and how they tried to overhaul their sound with electronica; referencing the avant-garde and ending up sounding like a twee Chemical Brothers, of all things. No such problem for Animal Collective. They’ve managed to expand their trademark sound to include triumphal organ flurries, psychedelic arpeggios on “My Girls” and “Daily Routine” that, underneath the beguiling tunes, recall Terry Riley circa “A Rainbow In Curved Air”.

And going back to that idea of an AC “trademark sound”, it strikes me that while “Merriweather” is instantly recognisable as their work, it also has an elevated gracefulness. Amniotic sloshing still underpins many of these tracks, but the kindergarten shrillness of old seems to have been phased out, so that the general mood is one of blissed euphoria, if that makes sense. An ecstatic sound, in more than one way.

Something about the opening “In The Flowers”, the way it keeps peaking and has the clattering feel of a drum parade at times, reminded me of “Turn Into Something” this morning, so I played the two songs back to back. The contrast was pretty surprising, actually: the older song, in comparison, felt raw, rowdy, relatively simplistic. That’s not to say “In The Flowers” is over-polished and sober – far from it. One of the many pleasures of “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is the sustained excitement, even in the more reflective passages like “No More Runnin”, before the fireworks-packed climax of “Brothersport”.

But I can’t help feel there’s a lot more to learn about this one. Leave it with me, and I’ll try and write more in a week or so once I’ve lived with it properly.