animalcollective_merrcoverWhile it's unlikely that Animal Collective's ninth will be revered to the same extent as Beethoven's, they both share a healthy dose of boldness. About as weird as you'd expect of an album named after a Maryland outdoor music venue with a potentially headache-inducing optical illusion for cover art, Merriweather Post Pavilion is an early candidate for being one of the most discussed weird albums of 2009. Exploring the borders between out-and-out psychadelic chaos and pop accessibility, the album is rarely less than challenging, and isn't neccesarily the kind of album you'll be listening to on repeat - at least not at first. It certainly isn't for everyone - those who like their music a little more anthemic and more overtly based on hooks may find it a frustrating listen, for example - and while that's often a fair criticism that can be leveled at it, MPP will, conversely, appeal to many for exactly that reason. The album frequently uses more subtle ploys to draw its listener in.Not always, though. The wonderful "My Girls", a real highlight, is riddled with lyrical hooks, an epic in minutes that skips along a retro synth line on a simple, engaging beat - building gorgeously and then fading away when its job is done. Its vocals are one of its most striking features, which is true of several of the songs here. Often, they are densely layered, offering an expansive, even choral feel. Elsewhere, they consist of lines breathlessly stitched together, creating a sense of hectic urgency. There's always a lot going on in the album; these songs sometimes seem simple at first, but repeated listens unveil myriad tiny elements scuttling around in the background, from little beeps to off-kilter stabs of percussion. In keeping with that, MPP is an album which will definitely benefit from being heard on a decent audio set-up, incidentally.Being so dynamic and varied (and yet surprisingly cohesive), the album will have different highlights for different people. "Bluish" is a personal favourite, driven by its sugary chorus embellished with echoey keys and the woozy, wobbling sonic sludge that pervades throughout. Then there's the wild and tribal-sounding "Also Frightened", the curious looped didgeridoo of "Lion In A Coma" nailed to a oddly perky chorus-of-sorts, and the more reflective, stripped-back and down-tempo "No More Runnin". The fact that the songs often bleed quite extensively into one another is possibly a signal of how cohesive the album is meant to sound, despite the varied texture, instrumentation, and pace.

The album ends with the thoroughly surreal but fun singalong "Brother Sport". It represents ending on a high note, as the song towers alongside "My Girls" as one of MPP's primary achievements. Starting with dominating, irreverant vocals soon joined by fast-paced shuffling beats leading into a lengthy instrumental sojourn and then back onto the beaten track (or as close as Animal Collective tread), it ticks a lot of the boxes of a stealth club hit, dare I say it. Inclusive, enjoyably and deservedly repetitive, it deserves to be heard a lot - like the rest of the album. In fact, for many, this is a record that they will need to listen to repeatedly so as to unravel the best of its esoteric delicacies. I'll repeat that this won't be for everyone, but it's something that everyone should at least try - the more Merriweather Post Pavilion is given a spin, the more likely it is that its charms will coax you in.85%Animal Collective on MySpace