The searching souls in Animal Collective have evolved into one of the most fascinating bands of our time, in part for the way they jam signals of various kinds. There's the sound, of course: a simultaneously loose and hard-wired amalgam of moods that transposes shrieking terror with swooning beauty, each given voice in a liminal art-rock language that prioritizes the ecstasy of surprise. Then there's the matter of approach: the way they've gotten bigger and more influential as they've burrowed deeper into what plays like the esoteric findings of private rites of passage.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is one of this year's most feverishly anticipated indie albums, and it's worth taking a moment to consider how startling it is that music so idiosyncratic—so adventurous, so strange—could qualify as momentous on any scale. Part of that owes to the lingering power of Animal Collective's past few albums, but Merriweather is the first one to sound genuinely ready for wider reach. It's an aspirational album, with aspirations split between an ambitious sort of communalism and more modest concerns, like quietly hanging out, walking around, and staring into the eyes of someone scared.
Merriweather's sound plays like both a summation and an expansion of everything Animal Collective has done so far, with a sharper focus on melody and more emboldened vocals that drive the songs. There's a lot to drive, especially amid sloshing, slurping, widescreen soundscapes like the dramatic opener "In The Flowers" and "My Girls," an electronically strobing ode to domesticity sung by Panda Bear. The wondrous rub between electronic ingenuity and exultant humanity counts as one of Merriweather's unstated themes, and it's hard to imagine a better anthem for that than "Brother Sport," a triumphant outro that sounds like a thousand friends twirling and singing together, all inside their own heads and with eyes wide.