Indie band Animal Collective pushes bounds, redefines sound on new album

Following numerous side projects released by Animal Collective, an experimental indie-pop outfit from Baltimore, Md., their ninth studio album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, finally hit the shelves on Jan. 20.

Animal Collective has set a new standard for the entire indie genre. Merriweather Post Pavilion is easily their best work to date and the culmination of their 9-year career as a band.

The Baltimore foursome incorporated driving synth beats reminiscent of Radiohead, haunting vocals like those of The Shins' James Russell Mercer and the cyclic sampling found in the best works of the hip-hop genre to create an electronic indie-pop masterwork.

Merriweather Post Pavilion contains 11 stellar yet strange tracks ranging from the slow trance chanting of "Also Frightened" to the Caribbean-tinged psycho freak-out, "Brother Sport" to the upbeat staccato wonderment of "Bluish."

The songs drift toward the weird more often than not, but usually to great effect. All the songs contain unique elements that come together to make Merriweather Post Pavilion a must-have album.

Undoubtedly the best track on the album is the repetitive "My Girls," a head-thumping song complete with hip-hop samples, falsetto singing, late '80s synthesizers and hand clapping.

Other highlights include the immensely fun didgeridoo-laced "Lion in a Coma," and "Guys Eyes," a song complete with African drums and jungle noises (think of Paul Simon's Graceland).

Each of the songs can easily stand on their own as singles, but where Animal Collective really stands out among the crowded field of indie-pop is in the cohesiveness of the album as a whole.

Each song has been painstakingly placed in a deliberate order to complement each other. From the very first track, it is obvious that the members of Animal Collective are masters of studio producing.

There are several points in Merriweather Post Pavilion, however, where Animal Collective gets a little too weird for their own good.

Low points in the album include the essentially boring "Taste," which oddly resembles a musical merry-go-round, and the Valium-laden "No More Runnin," a song sounding more like a ghostly wail than anything else.

But unlike most albums, Merriweather Post Pavilion is not content to stay still; it refuses to maintain the numbing low of the respectably sleep-inducing OK Computer by Radiohead, nor the overbearing high of the ADD-riddled Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better.

Instead the album effectively takes numerous turns, altering the tone, feeling and instrumentation to create a fluid listening experience that should not be missed.

From crushing lows to exhilarating highs, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is a great ride of the success that will serve as a formidable challenge to future releases within the indie genre.