HEAR: Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavillion

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THE TIMES OF LONDON: There is cheap music, potent and conducive to an easy sentimentality (and, often, none the worse for that), and there is music that produces in the listener a more complex and gradual reaction, which combines bafflement, the playing of a shy smile on the lips, a rush of heat to the face, a sensation of being once more a child, unsure quite how to respond to or process the experience. Merriweather Post Pavilion, named after an open-air concert venue in Maryland, is a glorious example of the latter. MORE

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mecropped.thumbnail.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA Back in college, which was longer ago than I care to admit, so let[s just say some time after the Earth cooled but before the Internet, I lived in an old Victorian house that the college owned and subdivided into separate apartments. It was a gathering house for all the freaks and geeks who didn’t quite blend in with the frat-boy-cheerleader-chug-a-lug-date-rape ethos of the main campus. Across the hall my neighbors had set up a de facto commune of 24/7 hacky-sack drum-circling and druggy bird-dogging. Most of the guys living there weren’t even enrolled. They all had sophomoric stoner-rific nicknames — Andy Crack, Stinker, Wild Bill, Bleep — and they all looked like they lived underwater.

Almost nobody knew how to play an instrument, but these guys were gonna start a band. ‘Whatever you say, Hippie Pants,’ I thought to myself. They were gonna call themselves the Gooney Birds after the sheet of primo blotter they’d scored at a recent Dead show. While I went to classes, these guys woodshedded day and night, nourished only by an Evian bottle filled to the brim with liquid LSD. By the end of the semester the bottle was empty and these guys were making some of the most jaw-droppingly mesmerizing folk-based psych I’d ever heard. They sounded like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey looks. Fuck me, I thought. It’s like they mutated a couple steps up the food chain.

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I can’t help but think something similar happened to the men of Animal Collective during their formative years.animalcollective7_1.jpg They’ve known each other since high school. They all have stoner-rific nicknames: Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist, Deaken. From the sound of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they too had a private stock of that Evian elixir when they first took up instruments. Nine albums into their career, Animal Collective have become a cause celebre among the freak-folk meritocracy, creating some of the most stunningly original and indescribably otherworldly music since, well, the acid hit the punk rock some time around the Meat Puppets‘ Up on the Sun and Husker Du’s Flip Your Wig.

When it comes to pedigree, Animal Collective cover their paw tracks with six degrees of sonic separation, mutating sound over and over again until it sounds quite ordinary — if you live on Neptune. And they have two great tricks that can’t be easily dismissed: First, they somehow make music that continues to morph even when it’s set in stone on CD. (I’ve listened to Feels about 18 times, and I swear to God not one nanosecond of it ever sounds the same twice.) Second, their unwavering refusal to be serious is what makes them so profound.

HOT CHIP & PETER GABRIEL: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

EAST VILLAGE RADIO: In a late entry for the “Most Awesome Cover Of 2008” sweepstakes, Hot Chip and Peter peter-gabriel_large.thumbnail.jpgGabriel have released their take on Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Yes, that’s the song that namechecks Peter Gabriel himself in the chorus, which he comments on mid-song. Hot Chip’s groovy electronic recasting of the tune makes it sound considerably less like Haircut 100 covering Paul Simon’s Graceland, while highlighting the rather lovely melody. Recorded last summer at Gabriel’s Real World Studios, this song is thus far available only on an XL Recordings label sampler. MORE

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