My Album of 2009, by Daniel Burton (age 21).
The one album that has been pretty-much ignored by these best-of posts has been Merriweather Post Pavilion, other than Dylan’s weird little comment. Yes, I have heard their other albums. But this one is entirely different. I have written this entry several times over in my head while driving around my hometown with this album playing very loud, but now it’s all mushed together (fitting, considering the very Wet sound of MPP)… so here it goes.
I was going to say, this album is Accessible. But as much as that has been said, I don’t know that it’s true. If I played this album for my mom, she would not understand what was going on. Electronic beats? Weird bleated yells? It is kind of overwhelming. Maybe, say, a frat-bro would understand it a little more… oh yeah, there are some beats there, but then some f***** is yelling over it. Whatever, shit’s gay.
The thing that I think grabs people about this album is that it feels universal. What does that mean? It’s the feeling I get when I hear, forgive me, the Replacements. I think, “why isn’t this on the radio? why doesn’t every person in America know this band?” I don’t understand on any level how a song like “Unsatisfied” isn’t part of the set of American Classic Rock Standards that every 8th-grade-boy knows. MPP is obviously a little more out there, but it’s so perfectly BEAUTIFUL. There’s so much of what people love about, say, the Beatles or the Beach Boys in there. There was a point when Americans accepted a little more experimentation (or, a tame, pop version of Experimentation) in their music.
A lot of people have talked about how “mature” this album is. I hate this. I hate when people refer to a sound as “maturing,” because this almost always means, in my experience, “more boring.” I hate the hierarchy calling a new album “mature” creates between the new sound and the old sound. In the case of an album like I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers, which broke my fucking heart this year, or the later Replacements albums, it was definitely the case that something really was lost when they “matured.” What is going on on MPP, though, is a move away from a certain impulse that older AC albums have had… an impulse that maybe has to do with being a little younger. So maybe the word is “matured,” but I still hate it for the implication of “getting better.”
Anyway, the urge I mean to describe is the urge that makes you like, say, hardcore punk. At least in my case, when I listen to “Pay to Cum,” or James Chance, or “European Son,” I don’t really think “oh, my Dad would love this.” And I don’t fucking WANT him to like it! That isn’t the point. In the case of MPP, this impulse, which was present in the willfully weird earlier AC albums, just isn’t there anymore. This is beyond “I’m so fucking weird, deal with it, it’s who I am” and moved into “I’m weird, sure, but look at how awesome it is to be weird. everyone is a little weird. and weird people are people, who have kids and houses and walk around in the rain and stuff.” This is the moment when you realize, hey, that weirdo kid who wears an Indian head-dress to school is a really nice guy, and he writes pretty songs, and maybe we should be friends. Maybe as much as I want my mom to love him he’s just a little too weird for her, but he’s great. And this is what a lot of the transition from punk to “indie” is about… it’s what grabbed me when I first heard bands like the Replacements and early REM and the Violent Femmes. Why doesn’t everyone love this? Why hasn’t everyone heard this?
Furthermore, I enjoy this album more than any of their other albums. The first 6 songs are so perfect that I can’t stop listening to them. Right at the point where I thought I was “over the buzz” a few months ago, and started thinking things like “maybe only My Girls and Brothersport are any good,” I listened to the album again and was blown away. Wait, this is the album with Summertime Clothes!? This is the album with “Also Frightened?” (why don’t more people talk about these two songs?) “No More Runnin?” Every time I hear these songs, I smile and turn it up. Some of the later songs are not my favorites, but it is very possible that this is because I can’t stop listening to the first 6.
On another level, this album was huge. I remember the first time I listened to it, and ran into my friends’ apartment (KWUR DJ’s Invisible Cola and Jackson Jive) to make them listen to it with me. I remember hearing “My Girls” in someone’s DJ set at a party and feeling like everyone on earth was listening to this album. Were they? Obviously not. But that feeling, of this being “The Album” with a capital The (as in “Winnie The Pooh,” as my latin teacher used to say) made a big impact on me… I don’t know that I’ve ever had that feeling before. It’s a feeling that I think used to happen more often in college radio… books like Our Band Could Be Your Life have interviews where people talk about remembering where they were the first time they heard certain albums, or walking down the halls of their dorm and hearing people blasting “You’re Living All Over Me.”
But seriously, it’s really really good. Come on.