Follow-up albums are a tricky thing. The Who followed Who's Next, an unequivocally great album with Quadrophenia, an even better one. Pavement topped Slanted and Enchanted with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Bowie bested Hunky Dory with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. Likewise, there's the potential for huge drop-offs. Jet followed the mediocre, but certainly listenable Jet with the historically putrid Shine On. Metallica alienated their entire fan base with their self-titled follow-up to ...And Justice For All, and The Killers destroyed most of the good will that Hot Fuss generated with Sam's Town.
Animal Collective shook the music world in 2007 with the electric Strawberry Jam, warrenting a once-in-a-blue-moon score of 9.3/10 from notoriously stingy Pitchfork Media, and a superb 79/100 from metacritic. 2007 also saw Collective member Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) release a self-titled album to even higher acclaim, warranting a 9.4 from Pitchfork, as well as winning its album of the year, and earning an excellent 87/100 from metacritic.
This makes expectations for their latest album, Merriweather Post Pavillion, pretty much astronomical. Rather than going the route of the latter, Avey Tare, the afformentioned Panda Bear, and Geologist follow up arguably their best album with an even greater one. MPP, by all accounts, has to be the early favorite for album of the year. It already has the Pitchfork buzz factor, with an unheard of 9.6/10 (to put that in perspective, that's the same score that Beck's iconic Odelay got upon its initial release), and appears to be picking up steam. There certainly is substance to the hype.
Pavillion starts with bang with the immersive In the Flowers, which begins in a tranquil sea of fuzz and trippy vocals, then kicks it up a notch with thunderous percussion that escalates to an orgasmic plateau of an apex (2 or so minutes). The boys proceed to unleash a string of some of the best material they've ever recorded. My Girls, Summertime Clothes, Taste, and Lion in a Coma are all absoultey superb tracks in an album that lacks any filler. All of this escalates into a wonderful finale, with Brothersport. This is easily the strongest track on the album, and is one of the most bizarrely catchy songs I've heard since Battles' Atlas. I'll just embed a video, because it's tough to convey how great this song is.
This is about as close to a flawless album as it gets. This album is better than Jam, and thankfully avoids the frontloading that was a tad bit frustrating about its predecessor.
9.9/10 (Or, on the Koolthingzzz scale, a Bruce Campbell/TR +. Happy now, Jake?)
(Doesn't quite get a 10, because I couldn't find a track on it I liked better than Jam's Unsolved Mysteries. Also, how is Water Curses left off this album?)
Favorite Tracks: Brothersport, In the Flowers, My Girls, Summertime Clothes, Lion in a Coma