For some reason, Paul Shirley, who has played for 13 pro basketball teams, decided to listen to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion seven times consecutively and then write about it on ESPN.com.
The why here is sort of unclear — why does this man have a music column… for ESPN? Why Animal Collective? Why seven times? But once you get past all the confusion, the narrative of how Paul Shirley learned to stop worrying and love Animal Collective (sort of) is a lot of fun to read.
Shirley’s notes on first listen:
Song 1: "Woof." Song 2: "Eudora kids — Skateboards and guns. I like." Song 3: "Fourth-grade chorus — all sopranos." Song 4. (blank) Song 5. "Eighties." Songs 6-11: "All same."
It gets bleaker: Shirley’s notes for listens two and three are "This is the worst album I’ve ever heard."
Then, though, he starts to get it: by the sixth listen, Shirley comments that the vocals on "My Girls" sound like they were done by the Beach Boys (yup!). And his summary of the band’s sound might make die-hard Animal Collective fans livid — it’s, you know, a little reductive — but at the end of the day, he’s not wrong:
Really, Animal Collective is an instrumental band. They do sing, of course, but their voices are used more like instruments than as story-telling machines. To my ears, MPP is background music. Cool, creative, fun background music, but background music nonetheless.