No matter how much stock one puts in the views of rock critics, record store employees, or the despicable blokes who've been both (like myself), there is no denying at least one praise-worthy characteristic of the avant-something indie outfit known as Animal Collective—they keep it fresh. Call it obnoxious or pretentious all you want, but when a band's ninth album is still making fickle hipsters cream their skinny jeans, that band is approaching a level of sustained freshness rarely seen outside an infomercial for Debbie Meyers' Green Vegetable Bags.
It's tough to say whether Merriweather Post Pavilion is the pinnacle of Animal Collective's decade-long career, and it wouldn't even be accurate to say that it marks a total departure from what's come before—swirling, psychedelic folk-punk island music, if you were wondering. But Merriweather might be the record that completes AC's evolution into the Flaming Lips of this generation.
Like Wayne Coyne and his band of misfits, Animal Collective's crew of Panda Bear, Avey Tere, and Geologist (quasi-member Deakin isn't on this album) has found its own niche as weirdo geniuses, making illogically pristine pop music out of a mess of whoops and wooshes. If there's a surprise to be found in standout Merriweather tracks like the hypnotic "In the Flowers" or the Brian Wilson-meets-Syd Barrett "Also Frightened," it's merely the same surprise new listeners have found with every other Animal Collective album—this band is a hell of a lot more accessible than reading about them would indicate.