Animal Collective is best band of 2009

Animal Collective
“Merriweather Post Pavilion”
4.5 stars out of 5

Nine albums into their prolific career, Baltimore’s Animal Collective has delivered the first great record of the young year. Since 2000, the band has flirted with brilliance in their sonic landscapes of quirky keyboards and experimental percussion. On “Pavilion,” the indie troupe has drawn on past successes to mold something that may very well be remembered as their most enduring statement in the world of music.

The critical hype that surrounded this release speaks to the incredible presence of Animal Collective. Once “Merriweather” was given an immensely positive review by pitchfork.com, speculation arose that it could become the first record to crack the Billboard Top 200 based on vinyl sales alone.

Though it ultimately came up short, the seeds have been sown for at least some crossover status.

“Merriweather” is the foursome’s most accessible offering to date, with electronic soundscapes laying the foundation for soaring harmonies.

That being said, music fans of all types owe it to themselves to investigate this early candidate for “Album of 2009.”

Key Tracks: “Summertime Clothes,” “My Girls”

Gringo Star
“All Y’all”
4 stars out of 5

After releasing their debut EP more than a year ago, Gringo Star expands their brand of southern rock on their full-length release, “All Y’all.” Although this end-of-the-year gem might have gotten overlooked in the shuffle of “best of” lists and bigger releases, Gringo’s recent album deserves critical attention.

“All Y’all” is a surprisingly eclectic album that touches multiple genres, includeds hard-rocking blues, bouncing pop and even a Tom Waits-esque carnival stomp. Gringo Star takes inspiration from just about every style, but succeed in creating a distinctive tone that runs throughout. As their punned name might suggest, The Beatles lay among these inspirations.

Highlights of the album speak to their diverse musical influences. The chorus of “Come On Now” sounds like a song off “A Hard Day’s Night” filtered through three decades of garage rock. The latter parts of the album find the band treading in a heartland sound, including the ghostly Americana vibe of “TransMission” or the pure alt-country influence of “Eve of Your Expression.”

With the band’s aesthetics driving the album, Gringo Star has crafted at least a half dozen endlessly listenable songs on a debut well worth seeking out.

Key Tracks: “All Y’all,” “TransMission”