January 18, 2009

Animal Collective / Merriweather Post Pavilion

Artist : Animal Collective
Title : Merriweather Post Pavilion
Hometown : Originally Balt, MD - now Spain / NYC / DC I think.
Label : Domino
Street Date : 1/20/2009

RIYL : M83 sipping umbrella drinks, OMD as channeled through Brian Wilson, Animal Collective / Panda Bear doing what you have loved or hated them for already but taken just a notch further, Afropop trapped in the body of young Dads looking for a way to express life in a band, a masculine romantic dance record

The Hits : The only song that doesn't move me is"No More Runnin". The rest is near perfection.

Richter Magnitude Rating Scale: Great.1

This record will probably end up being one of the most over-reviewed records of the year so I will spare you the usual music journalist review of the record and cut and paste a few answers to questions I had about the record as answered by the band in various interviews I found on line about this new release.

And in case the Richter rating doesn't apply reflect my opinion of the record, I love it. It is a blissful listen.

My first question : why name the record after a Maryland outdoor venue?

"Instead of drawing on direct influences, Animal Collective makes albums with a connection to places in mind. "We usually try to connect to outdoor environments, and there was something about this that was harking back to the time where we would be outside, in backyards, listening to music on a boombox," Portner says. "Because that's how we really grew up and got attached to listening to music together."Hence the new album's title, which shares its name with an amphitheater in Columbia, Md. "I had seen the most concerts there, growing up," Portner says. "But we didn't really name it after the venue. We really liked the way it sounds and that it has the word 'weather' in it. We cast a lot of the songs to different weather patterns.""

There appears to be more lyrics than ever and the themes seem to be very rooted in the life of a family man. What gives?

Take from Cyclic Defrost:

Bob - So how’s life been lately and how has this fed into your latest album?

Brian - Noah has been living in Lisbon and had a wife and a daughter, I’ve been with the same girl for a long time and getting married, and Dave’s married and this record is just the 3 of us, Josh (Deakin) wanted to take a break from the touring aspect. As we’ve got more successful we’ve also been away from home more often than not which puts a strain on everyone’s personal life in a different way and he needed to stop touring for a while and we decided to keep working on new material. Life is really good for all of us, the one thing real negative that is expressed on the record a lot is about being away from home because all of us really enjoy our home and personal lives and touring and press and what not. Not that we’re really complaining about it, we feel lucky to be in the position we’re in, but there’s no denying that when you spend between 4-6 months away from your wife or girlfriend or kid it can put a strain on things. That’s probably the most difficult thing in our lives these days that we agree at least its expressed on the record.

Bob - So how is it expressed?

Brian - It’s mostly expressed in the lyrics. Since we all live in different places these days a lot of our musical ideas happen individually when we’re at home. We all work on things at home when we’re surrounded by the home life that we find very comfortable, and then we send each other stuff in the mail or over the internet and then we come together for very short periods of practice. I think Dave and Noah and I each worked individually for a month on various ideas for this new record and then came together and put 90 percent of it together in 12 days. Then we toured with it for a year and made little changes here there but not many. The majority of the record was made really quickly. The inspiration all came from when we were home. The lyrics are the main things that expressed the negative side of our lives these days which is constant travel.

What happened to the guitars?

Bob - Have you felt there’s been much of a departure with the new album from your previous work?

Brian - To us it’s much more of an electronic record. It’s really sample based but it’s misleading when i say that. It’s not sample based in that we sampled other peoples music, we sampled ourselves in the practice space and used snippets of ourselves playing and making sounds turned them into loops and samples. The songs are performed mainly with samples but its us playing acoustic instruments. So I’m not sure if it’ll sound more electronic to people but to us it is due to the process. And a lot of the songs were constructed without the guitar or piano being the main song-writing instrument or featured as the main featured instrument in the song. For us for the last few records, Sung Tongs, Feels, and even Strawberry Jam, the guitar was like the leader of the pack. And Strawberry Jam may have sounded more electronic to people but that’s because we treated the guitar pretty heavily with effects, but it was still guitar as the origin of the song and we wanted to get away from the guitar dominating the song-writing process. So for us that’s a big departure. I’m not sure how it will sound to listeners, since we still sampled ourselves playing guitar sometimes.

The production is different on this record and the vocals have never been more up front. Was there something happening on the back end of the recording / producing / mastering process that was different this time?

Bob - Is it true you used a producer for this album?

Brian - The media always calls everyone we work with a producer. We produce our own records we just hire engineers. The people we work with have been producers for other people. Scott Coburn’s produced people, Rusty Santos has produced people. Ben Allen is the most well known producer, he’s produced a lot of mainstream stuff like Christina Aguilera, he was Puff Daddy’s engineer for a while and he’s worked with Danger Mouse on the Gnarls Barkley record. We were very explicit when we hired him that we just wanted him as an engineer and he was pretty cool with that. We ended up crediting him as a co producer because after the songs were already recorded and we had done all the pre production when it came time to mix the record there were certain things that we weren’t happy with. He was really good. He had about 5 or 6 really crucial moments on the record where we were not happy with a certain part of a song and he said that he thought he could do something mixing wise to really help it out. Normally when someone does that we would say absolutely not, we produce our own records just as a principal every idea on the record has to be ours. But this time just because he came from such a different background from us, this hip hop thing we were really curious as to what his ideas were. so we would say ‘why don’t you do what you have in your head,’ and he would do it and it would be fucking awesome. So it felt like we were co producing with him.

And from the National Post :

The latter's breezy melodies and hypnotic harmonies are at the forefront of Merriweather Post Pavilion, which also features the most personal lyrics in Animal Collective's catalogue. For the first time, the band included a printed copy of the lyrics in the CD sleeve.

"Maybe we were a bit uncomfortable with words, or lyrics, being the main focus of the songs," Weitz says. "Because sometimes when you just follow the words, there's a possibility it'll take away from the energy of the song or the other sounds. And we never saw the vocals as the most important thing. We wanted them to be equally weighted as the other sounds in the music. We used to mix them more as just another musical or melodic element. I think we're more comfortable with the idea that they can be louder and you can hear the lyrics and it doesn't take away from the other things in the song."

I've heard that another AC record is already in the works, is that true?

From the Skinny :

"We've been working on a project where we're composing music for an abstract film. That will be the next proper Animal Collective release we hope. All the visuals are done and all the music's been composed. We recorded about half of it in December, we were supposed to record the whole thing but there was an ice storm in upstate New York where we were, it knocked the power out of the studio for a few days. But we're gonna go back to it next month after this tour is over and hopefully finish it then."

But Geo warned that the forthcoming soundtrack had very different musical aims from the hugely acclaimed new record: "I dont know if everyone who's coming on board with Post Pavilion will really be open to it. It's a pretty experimental process for us, sometimes if the music is going with visuals then there isn't a song structure in it at all, it's more like abstract sound design. Sometimes there are - it's half-and-half between that, and new songs in the traditional sense. The film's being made by a friend of ours who's a director, we've been doing it simultaneously. That was a process we wanted, an experiment, a challenge, to see if we could each create something together, create it simultaneously as if they're inextricably linked the whole way through."

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