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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now, a review of some music that is difficult to categorize. The group Animal Collective uses drones, loops, sound collages, and unusual vocal harmonies. Here's our critic Will Hermes to decipher Animal Collective's new album, which is called "Merriweather Post Pavilion."

(Soundbite of music)

WILL HERMES: One of the things I love most about Animal Collective is how hard it is to pin their music down. I guess they're a rock band. But nothing ever sounds as simple as a singer with a guitar, bass, and drums. Instead, by using electronics to process natural sounds and unnatural ones, their songs create fantastic spaces where voices dart like dragonflies and sound fields roll through like fog or thunderstorms.

(Soundbite of song "In The Flowers")

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: (Singing) Feeling envy for the kid who danced in spite of anything, I walk out in the flowers and feel better. If I could just leave my body for a night...

HERMES: What keeps me coming back to Animal Collective's new record, "Merriweather Post Pavilion," is that despite all the electronics and the otherworldly sounds, they make music that feels strangely organic. Like this track called "Summertime Clothes," which captures the palpable delirium of a heat wave and maybe the fizzy joys of love.

(Soundbite of song "Summertime Clothes")

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: (Singing) Sweet summer night and I'm stripped to my sheets, Forehead is leaking, my A/C squeaks, And the voice in the clock says you're gonna get tired, The bed is a pool and the wall's on fire. Soak my head in the sink for a while, Chills on my neck and it makes me smile, But my bones have to move and my skin's gotta breathe, You pick up the phone and I'm so relieved, You slide down the stairs and I hear you scream, The sun is laughing it's a slippery feeling, And I want to walk around with you, And I want to walk around with you, With you, with you, with oh...

HERMES: It's a new thing for Animal Collective songs, which are always emotional, to also be intelligible. That's one of the refinements on their new record, along with some startlingly sticky melodies. As in the past, you hear traces of electronic dance music in the repetitive beats and loops. But the group's curious vocal arrangements are more straightforward than ever here. They may actually remind you of the Beach Boys, had Brian Wilson gone down a more psychedelic road after "Pet Sounds."

(Soundbite of music)

HERMES: Animal Collective are one of a few current bands, including Fleet Foxes and TV on the Radio, that are rediscovering the power of vocal harmony. And it's interesting that the group named their record "Merriweather Post Pavilion," after the Frank Gehry-designed performance arena in Maryland.

I doubt it's because Animal Collective aspire to be arena-rockers, although they have played major festivals, and fans are starting to follow their tours and record their shows like Grateful Dead fans used to. Instead, I think the record is more about the arena inside a person, that huge space which contains multitudes. And to me, this record is the sound of those multitudes rushing out.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: The new album from Animal Collective is called "Merriweather Post Pavilion." Our reviewer is Will Hermes. And at the music section of npr.org, you can stream the entire album along with others, including the new album from Bruce Springsteen.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

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