Undoubtedly one of the best albums of the 21st century...
Jamie Milton

10:08 8th January 2009

Ever see that evolution of dance video on Youtube? Of course you did. It gave us a comical but all the more fascinating insight into just how much one thing can change. So how about pop music? Whoever's been at its helm over the last 50/60 years since it emerged as the dollar's genre of choice has done something different, adjusting it into something fresh and exciting, always at a stage when the chances of said occurring look pretty slim. I won't declare pop to be in a fragile state currently but with this "80's revival" having just gone a little bit too far, "it's time for change". And it's really quite brilliant that the ones that look to have done a master-stroke in carving a new niche in the genre once more are one of the most alternative, experimental acts around today.

Let's not get out of our depth by calling 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' a pop record. It might be Animal Collective's most commercially-inclined work to date but it doesn't consistently follow pop conventions or most essentially, ask for your money. Instead it inhales the finer things of the genre, as well as many others, and the album's output is a well-bred combination of its input in the form of a dense multiplier of new ideas through hefty use of sampling and dreamy electronically enhanced vocal melodies. And you can imagine "forward-thinking" pop artists taking note right now.

Animal Collective's appeal has always been that they've thought outside the box. And for their standards, 'Merriweather...' is their least groundbreaking work to date, from an outsider's view. Nothing makes you uncomfortable or nervy like 'Strawberry Jam' or 'Sung Tongs'could and nothing sounds so drastically different that the preferable option is to just stop listening instead of immersing yourself in what could turn out to be something brilliant. Instead, this time the three-piece (excluding Deakin on this occasion) have merged previous ideas whilst coming up with something entirely new. And it's really hard to tell quite how they did it.

We've seen hints of what's become on 'Merriweather...' before; through their energetic live shows and in particular, Panda Bear's very own 'Person Pitch', an album that completely out-did Avey Tare's solo work in terms of critical acclaim, song writing quality, everything. In 'Summertime Clothes' you get given a chance to recite the 30degree heat and the relaxation that I at least, associated so fondly with Noah Lennox's creation. Jerky electronics emerge shortly after a dictaphone-sample of waves, children; you can always picture smiles. And 'Daily Routine', a slightly darker affair, was originally set aside as a Panda Bear song for future works. You just get the idea that the band all had a sit down and raised the issue; "Hey Noah, you don't suppose you could give us any ideas, do you?"

Preferably you should be listening to the record accompanied by basking sunlight and dense beaches but that's obviously hard to come by unless you're from Australia at the moment. But you do occasionally get the feeling that we might just had the "sound of the summer" already without realising it. With a freezing cold window and far-too-thin curtains by your side, the album doesn't have such an impact as a cloudless blue sky would. That's not to say you can't enjoy the work whatsoever; just perhaps not to the same extent. All the less, energetic highlights ('Brothersport' and 'My Girls') combine with ambient drones of calm ('No More Runnin', the climax of 'Daily Routine') into an album so narrow in scope of sounds but so adventurous in ideas.

It's difficult to pick a favourite mood or even a favourite song, at that. A combination of two might just be an answer to that. 'Daily Routine' begins with a crunching, dis-jointed organ line before emerging into a combination of heavy beats and rhythmically-aware vocals from Panda Bear. It further progresses into a blissfully, increasingly abstract wave of noise before eventually closing to the sound of a siren. That's a lot to get your head round in six minutes.

The soothing yet fidgety number 'Bluish' is equally ambitious in its meeting of both relaxation and eagerness, with similarly impressive results. But it is the fire-starting frenzied side of the record that stands head and shoulders above all - 'Brothersport', 'My Girls' and the sheer intent during the climax of 'In The Flowers' kick you into action, require your attention; they're the ones that really make an impact. The opener commences in a sort of hungover-state; dreamy and not quite with it entirely. But the latter half of the song is a wiping away of any doubts fans had towards the album, a confirmation of the ridiculous level of buzz surrounding the band, all through the form of a joyful clenched fist of electronic rage. Thenafter, there's never a dull moment, especially not in closer 'Brothersport', which almost provokes an out-of-body experience. It gets you that carried away.

And so the only thing left to say is some sort of over-blown statement about how this album will change the world. Go ahead, call it the best album of the year. Go ahead, call it undoubtedly one of the best albums of the 21st century. You might even be right when you look back on this.