“Merriweather Post Pavilion”
Animal Collective (Domino)
It’s the dead of winter, less than month into 2009, but the Baltimore-Brooklyn indie art-pop duo Animal Collective has already released the best summertime song of the year.
OK, that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but “Summertime Clothes,” the swirling, chiming, slamming, off-kilter love song that’s a high point of “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” is ridiculously good.
(The album, by the way, is named for a storied Maryland amphitheater.)
This is the ninth album by the duo of Avey Tare (Dave Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), and it’s the best — and rarest — kind of breakthrough.
It keeps the band’s trademark laptop-generated weirdness intact while surrounding gurgling experiments like “Bluish” with delectable melodies, and bringing off Beach Boys-suffused exotica such as “Brother Sport” with a mischievous wink and a warm heart.
AC Newman (Matador)
As leader of the New Pornographers, Carl Newman builds glorious pop songs filled with hook after hook and innumerable ’70s AM Top 40 arrangement tricks. As solo artist AC Newman, he does the same thing.
Any of the songs on “Get Guilty,” his second solo album, would fit on a New Pornographers album: They’re that good. “Like A Hit Man, Like A Dancer,” with its fits and starts of acoustic guitars and rimshots; “Prophets,” with its grandly ascending melody — these and others rank with Newman’s best.
But in hewing so closely to his work with his other band, Newman chooses to compete with himself. Although backing vocalists Nicole Atkins and Mates of State sound fine, they can’t compete with the Pornographers’ Neko Case.
Andy Friedman and the Other Failures (City Salvage)
On “Pilot Light,” Andy Friedman tells an autobiographical tale about spending three years working on a painting only to learn a valuable lesson.
“Liberation is perfection,” he concludes. Well, this painter, cartoonist and illustrator has liberated himself to become a songwriter with an engagingly singular voice.
Over loose-limbed country, folk and blues boogie, Friedman writes from the wry, sharply observational perspective of a “Road Trippin’ Daddy,” balancing wanderlust with his responsibilities as a real father. One of his best portraits, “Freddy’s Backroom,” is set on his home turf of Brooklyn. It’s the story of a favorite dive that’s destined to become a parking lot, and Friedman’s lovingly detailed description nails just what makes such a place so appealing.
“New Time, New ’Tet”
Benny Golson (Concord)
Composer and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson turned 80 Sunday. He celebrates life by moving forward. The North Philly cat, who practiced with John Coltrane as a teenager, had a speaking part in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 movie “The Terminal,” and has continued to tour and record.
Here on his second Concord release, the leader, who helped invent the hard bop idiom, reinvents his old jazztet circa 1959-1962 with some players who backed Golson on film: pianist Mike Ledonne, drummer Carl Allen, and Buster Williams on bass. Fronting the band are Eddie Henderson on flugelhorn and trumpet and Steve Davis on trombone.
The result is lyrical and romantic, descriptions that have stuck to Golson for at least half a century.
Befitting his status as a major composer, the session offers several originals, such as Golson’s classic “Whisper Not,” for which Al Jarreau offers up some restrained vocals.
“Gypsy Jingle-Jangle” recalls Golson’s “Blues March,” but with an Eastern European twist.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer