It started even before 2008 ended. As music fans everywhere pondered and debated all the 2008 best-of lists, some started tipping Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion as the best album of 2009.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that people are enthused about new music, but that kind of prognostication reeks of premature critical gushing. Maybe Merriweather Post Pavilion, named for the famed outdoor venue in Columbia, Maryland, is the album of the month of January 2009, but before we start with this album-of-the-year business, let's at least get a few months into 2009.
The fervor over Animal Collective hasn't subsided. If anything, it's gotten more intense. It seemingly reached a fever pitch last week just before the band was set to play sold-out shows at the Music Box @ the Fonda and the Troubadour in the Los Angeles area. (Those shows, by the way, ended up cancelled due to an illness in the band, but Animal Collective has scheduled a May 29 date at the larger Wiltern). The demand for tickets for the shows (before the cancellations were announced) and the buzz on the album made at least some people a little crazy. The band's publicist reported in her Facebook status that her Inauguration-day high was ruined by some uppity online editor, who berated her for not being able to hook him up with a ticket to a show and an interview with the band. Get real people. Like those great prophets the Rolling Stones once proclaimed many eons ago, "It's only rock 'n' roll." Or is it? Some people are reacting to Animal Collective as if they're new rock gods, the second coming, or at the very least, the next Radiohead. Me? I think the jury is still out.
I've yet to completely absorb Merriweather Post Pavilion. On first listen, it's interesting, but seems like an album that you have to live with for awhile before you can fully appreciate it. And that's a good sign. Often the music you immediately like grows old fast, while the stuff you requires repeated listens, grows on you like fungus, revealing new layers and delights with each spin.
For the uninitiated, Animal Collective--which is as the name suggests is a collective of musicians--began in Baltimore, Maryland in 2000. Its main members, David Porter and Noah Lennox, go by the nom de plumes of Avey Tare and Panda Bear, respectively. Over the span of seven albums, the band has built up a growing cult following with its trippy mix of folk, rock, psychedelia and electronica. Animal Collective seemingly made all the right moves to cultivate the buzz, including an appearance at the Coachella Music Festival in 2008. Check out the video below of the band performing "Fireworks/Essplode" live at Coachella, as well as the clip for "Peacebone," from the band's 2007 release, Strawberry Jam.
Yet don't let those songs affect your judgment of Merriweather Post Pavilion. This is the album where everything supposedly fell into its right place for Animal Collective. Listen to the tracks below and you make the call. Are Animal Collective really new rock gods or just another case of out-of-control hype gone wild?