Squares are seldom invited to the art-school party, and for nearly a decade, the trippy, often willfully obtuse output of cerebral-psych outfit Animal Collective easily stopped most musical normies at the door. In 2007, however, member Noah ''Panda Bear'' Lennox found solo acclaim with Person Pitch, a gorgeously accessible sonic whirligig like Pet Sounds spun through a flux capacitor. And while their ninth album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, won't land the band the opening slot on a Coldplay tour, it cleaves closer to Pitch's more listener-friendly aesthetic, abandoning the self-indulgent impulses that sometimes muddied last year's Strawberry Jam for an album full of effervescent, transportive oddity.
Merriweather, named for the Frank Gehry-designed outdoor concert venue in AC's native Maryland, is actually not unlike the renowned architect's famously contoured forms: swoopy, organic, and disarmingly out-there. Woozy Beach Boy harmonies have always anchored the band's best work, as in opener ''In the Flowers,'' a stunning postmodern frolic of shimmering synths, reverb-soaked vocals, and thump-and-tumble percussion. ''My Girls'' floats on swirling chorus rounds and the occasional falsetto ''owooh!'' while ''Lion in a Coma'' works hard to resuscitate the image of the much-maligned didgeridoo (the jury’s still out). But when the band collectively exhorts ''Open up your/open up your/open up your throat'' on the transcendent closer ''Brother Sport,'' it feels joyful, pure, and best of all, totally inclusive. A–
DownLoad This: Listen to songs from the new album on the band’s MySpace