by Francis Andrews in New Music on Friday 9 January 2009

Past reviews of the Baltimore four-piece Animal Collective have oscillated between jaw-dropping flattery and tight-lipped bemusement. So far, though, no one has knocked their sheer originality and ambition, and for good reason. One of the most distinctive bands of the last decade has managed to marry wild, almost psychotic and nonsensical, vocals and rhythms, cramming them into a tight and undeniably alluring package. Some songs hit the spot, others soar way out into leftfield: but all boundary-breaking bands suffer the same schizophrenic temperaments from time to time. Perhaps their most accessible album to date has just been released, and it’s already been pipped to land at the top-end of Best of 2009 lists. Whilst holding tight to the psychedelic torch they carried through their past work, Merriweather Post Pavillion borrows from that sun-splattered tropical sound being polished in Scandinavia. It’s also calmer and more measured than both Feels and Strawberry Jam, but still instantly recognisable in their unique, avant-garde style.