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Named after the outdoor summer shed in Columbia, Maryland, Merriweather Post Pavilion is the latest disc from Baltimore’s Animal Collective. The band named their disc in homage to warm summer evenings spent on the lawn there, enjoying and experiencing live music. The squeaky clean “planned community” hosted a mighty double bill of The Who and Led Zeppelin in 1969, but the local fuzz banned the good ol’ Grateful Dead from setting foot in the place in 1990.

When I first heard Animal Collective a few years back, I was immediately reminded of bands like Flying Saucer Attack, Windy and Carl or His Name is Alive. Bands with a foot planted firmly on the reverb pedal and just the slightest suggestion of song structure at their shimmering core. But Animal Collective strip away those pretensions and infuse their soundscape with gleeful abstraction and playful experimentation rather than post-punk melancholy. This music is dense and rich and it’s fun. Before I wrote this, I spent a lot of time listening to it. While it couldn’t grab me while I was doing dishes or driving to work, headphones at night proved to be ideal.

As with 2007’s Strawberry Jam, people have lauded this “their most accessible release yet!” which is usually is a polite way of saying “just wait, you’ll hear this on Gray’s Anatomy soon!”. While Merriweather Post Pavilion reins in the more angular and abraisive facets of the band’s sound and steers the listener into more pastoral realms, it certainly doesn’t sound like a calculated attempt to reach out to a broader audience.

What I love about Animal Collective is their ability to cram so many layers of sound into each song, and yet keep their sound as light and airy as ether. Merriweather Post Pavilion is full of celestial wooshings and ethereal swirlies, but backs it up with tight little beats and those sing-songy lush harmonies.

If there’s anything perplexing and inaccessible about Animal Collective, it would be trying to make sense of the massive hype that has surrounded the band. While Merriweather Post Pavilion is a fun trip and another solid entry in this band’s eclectic and vibrant catalog, I don’t think it is the be-all, end-all that some folks have made it out to be; however, it is filled with layers of brilliance, color, and light. Hyper-dimensional and high-definition. Music for summer nights under the fiery stars.

Meet me at setbreak on the lawn…

About the Author

Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

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