Hymns to Uncertainty

Translated from the French, by myself from a post by DJ Barney @ La Blogotheque.

Without any worthy reason, this text has dragged out a good part of the year, in a drawer, refusing to come out and celebrate the last album by Animal Collective. One Merriweather Post Pavillion that finally finds itself, against all odds, amongst the discs that I’ve most listened to and loved this year. Thus, there’s much to do: instead of just schlucking it wholesale on a “Best of the Year” list.
It was last year, almost around the same time of year that the new Animal Collective record leaked and let loose a suffocating clamor amongst the blogs. An inevitable broohaha that took the form of a plunged knife into the back of Merriweather Post Pavillion, which we hastily rushed to judge. A much more delicate record that at first glance; hand-made by a group much more sensible than they cared to show.
I came to Animal Collective rather late, between Sung Tongs & Strawberry Jam, but in the end without any regret. The first albums were too entangled in experimentation that hardly ever lasted. Of course, there are some things worth noting, most notably in the beautiful EP recorded by Vashti Bunyan, but nonetheless heavy with ennui.
Feels, Sung Tongs, and then mostly with Strawberry Jam little by little they had been able to draw up another whole geography: one which gives modern pop all its meaning, where guitars are sampled, where machines play the dripping of water like an arpeggio of chords. We get lost in it; one jumps from island to island going boing, and smiling as when you play Super Mario Bros: with enough momentum you could take off in it. Animal Collective went through mountain & mountain to make a trio amongst their desires. Somewhere between the dancefloors and the rhythms of the shoreline.
In this way, Merriweather Post Pavillion is a provisional, yet illusory culmination that refuses to give itself up like any common “record of the month.”

I made the error of seeking out the quasi-instaneous joy that surged from Strawberry Jam from the push of the play button: that electro-organic, varnished pop that made you want to howl along with the choruses flying down a summer road in your ride. At first contact, MPP sounded much more like driftwood, a bit smooth and nondescript. I had a hard time getting to its meaning, impossible to get a grapple hold on.

Was it a caricature of Animal Collective? A redundant work of lesser worth? I hesitated for several weeks, taken by the impression that the (currently) three guys had made themselves more efficient, and by way lost some of their passionate flame.  Then, I had to figure out that beyond all cold calculation one had to stop thinking: I liked this record; it opened up, day by day, and took off. It just needed some time to stretch out its legs.
Once the doors were open it was world of sprawling yellow brick roads, where tornadoes whip in a sweet melancholy, of the troubles of Thirty-Somethings (“My Girls,” “Brother Sport”), thwarted by blows of sunny melodies and grainy beats. The floats are still there, but more like a sea breeze that proclaims the earth and its exotic riches.
Animal Collective, and most notably Panda Bear, have never hidden their passion for the Beach Boys, and there is still much of this pop ideal with this last album. Only, the means are not the same, the sense of flighty detachment (even if postured) is far off, and the electronic labrynth that brims from MPP brings us to 2009: generational incomprehension, geographic clashes, the overwhelming quickening of changes…Merriweather Post Pavilion sings hymns but chooses to drown them in an uncertain sonority.  As if the record slept with its eyes wide open.
The year comes to a close, and this record is still there for me; I still find in it so much indemnification. It will surely endure the year through.
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