In 2009 we still had a MySpace page and Barack Obama had just become the first black President of the United States.
We used to talk about a music album sitting around a table, rather than behind a PC. We still had no idea what would happen in music industry and how the way we consumed music would change: we read album reviews on blogs or magazines at the time. I mean, we used to read, trying to separate ourselves from the common crowd and find out the hidden indie gems before anyone else.
We were squeamish with mainstream and sold out because we liked intimate shows in small spaces, better if they were in remote places.
In those first nine years of the new millennium we were impressed with a fascinating, prolific and alternative band from Baltimore called Animal Collective: the band consisting of Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Avey Tare (David Portner), Deakin (Josh Dibb) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) had already released seven folk and guitar-oriented albums at the time.
That band made us crazy because their music was polarizing: we either had to love it or hate it.
But, even if you hated their records, you agreed that Animal Collective were the last bastion of a bygone indie scene.
When it was released on January 6, a lot of critics called Merriweather Post Pavilion the best album of 2009, even though other iconic records of that year like XX or Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix hadn’t come out yet.
Animal Collective’s eighth full-length (the first after Deakin went out) sounds like an hallucinatory mix of experimental electronic and mesmerizing psychedelia, full of 80s synths and lysergic atmospheres that remind us Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. In short, the production on this album is so chaotic that it even impressed their diehard fans.
The discussion about Merriweather lasted for months because everyone realised it would remain an isolated case. Well, first of all, Animal Collective made a pop record without releasing the pop hit: they weren’t looking for commercial glories, indulging their baroque and stressfull productions.
Then, the way the record leaked two months before it was released was a very unusual way: in a way Merriweather was a precursor to how modern labels would released their albums in the streaming era.
It also marked the ending of a decade and the transition of the band from the indie scene to mainstream.
How they did it?
When Merriweather came out, everyone discussed about it for months on blogs and magazines that served as a way out of indie world, helping a band from Maryland to reach the popularity and headline the most important international festivals, from Primavera Sound to Coachella.
The diehard Animal Collective fans might turn up their noses at the popularity the band experienced after the release because AC has always been a hard band with a spontaneous but intricate sound. Now that we are 10 years into the future, we can say that Merriweather was an incredible inspiration for psych / baroque band like Tame Impala or Arcade Fire. Their successful formula was replicated over time but Animal Collective was the last indie band to crack the mainstream code.
Ten years later we know that social networks and streaming platforms changed everything in music even if we really don’t have the time to analyse how and when things have changed: with the New Music Fridays too many records come out every week so we probably have one or two albums that we can hear in depth.
Today we’re obsessed with an album for a couple days, discussing about it on Twitter, and then we forget about it.
But a resonant reverb still survives in this fleeting communication era: Animal Collective’s Merriweather was not isolated to a couple days. It still has a lasting power.