Today I'd like to talk about two popular, well-liked records that it took me a while to like well.
Animal Collective — Merriweather Post Pavilion
Let me start by telling a story from 10 years ago. About 10 years ago is when I really noticed most everyone I knew had lost their minds over Radiohead. I'd been leant OK Computer and Kid A a couple times and, yeah, neither stuck nor made an impression on me. I became a pretty vocal anti-Radiohead activist. "Experimental"? I listen to the Boredoms and Einsturzende Neubauten! BUT then in 2001 I found I liked the record called Amnesiac, and that empowered me to dip back into the Radiohead catalog and like the previous records and to march on into the future and like their new records, too.
Fast forward to 2009, I begin noticing people are bonkers about Animal Collective and their new record Merriweather Post Pavilion. Reghan tells me she can just listen to it over and over, when I tell Missionary Gregory Barnes that it was Pitchfork's #1 Record of 2009 he has a very-educated sounding "safe choice but makes sense" reaction. Everyone around me, it seems, all the time, loving on the out there experimental sounds of Merriweather Post Pavilion. But whenever I listen to it . . . I can barely make it through a song, more than anything it's the super-weird harmonies (or melodies?), the singing over each other--just like Dirty Projectors, I can't stand for this dissonance.
But then something very Amnesiac happens. I discover I like Panda Bear's rambling and endless Person Pitch record a lot, and he's like a member of Animal Collective? So my brain starts opening up to Animal Collective . . . and then I find out about this youtube, the like, alt response to the Chris Brown Forever wedding dance where the wedding party comes in to the Animal Collective song My Girls, and I investigate that song more because, well, it's definitely weird to me that these people would do such an embarrassing thing as come in to this song, but there must be a reason they liked it that much. I find My Girls acceptable on its own merits, I find the lyrics charming (and they take me back to my favorite excerpt from Finnigans Wake, the Infantina Isobel section, a bit) and it leads me to investigate all of Merriweather Post Pavilion and, like taking my first adult bites of blue cheese or sushi, I am challenged at first but discover I have developed a taste for it in my sleep. And while I might not listen to MPP every day, I probably listen to it once a week--I like how the songs pulse with the sounds of heartbeats and neurons (I can see myself, in a live music situation, losing myself to In the Flower as if it were LCD Soundsystem playing Yeah), and in this record there are some sounds I cannot escape, the little song called Bluish it has me completely charmed, this song is a beautiful kitten, this song is clean linen.
Flying Lotus — Cosmogramma
I'd heard Flying Lotus praised as a hip hop producer and this record called one of the best hip hop records of the year so far or whatever . . . yeah, calling this hip hop is a pretty ambitious attempt to expand the boundaries of what counts as hip hop because, uh, for starters there's no rapping? If it has to be categorized, and "electronicky instrumental music like you really haven't heard before, but not too startingly different from things you've heard before" doesn't count as a genre, well, back in the mid-90's we'd call this record acid jazz or, going out on a limb (but not as long a limb as calling it hip hop) trip hop?
Either way, like Merriweather Post Pavilion, at first I wasn't down. Too all over the place for my tastes, too many personalities or something, just not my jam, essentially. But I remained curious about this Flying Lotus fellow, remain wondering what it was I wasn't grasping, and then I listened to this good interview with him on the Sound of Young America . . . I think I had him a little confused with the musician called Burial from London who acts super-mysterious and doesn't give interviews or MF Doom because I was surprised that Flying Lotus was a guy who talked to people and seemed really affable, intelligent, young and motivated and not a punk. So it had me trying out the record again and, wow, let me tell you: Might not be the record for every day or for cruising in your Range Rover but this is some of the BEST "leave me alone, I need to do my attorney work and it is a little gray and rainy outside" I've ever plugged into while on the job. There's some basslines at the beginning of the record that I can really settle into and just ride on into the whole Flying Lotus experience. FL had a couple records before this one, Los Angeles and 1983, which are good but this is the one I like best and I'm sticking with it.
Here's an example of the Flying Lotus bassline that treats me right. Doesn't it make you just want to code documents?!:
Bonus Record: Of course I was going to like it, but I finally listened to all of Pulp's 1994 breakout album, "His n Hers" (of course I'd heard "Babies" before, can you blame me for being stuck on "Different Class" all this time) and, seriously, this is an awful good record . . . if you needed me to tell you that. Left me really thinking that Jarvis Cocker could have written Bad Romance, left me kind of dreaming of some Bad Romance covers during Pulps reunion shows next summer. Shoot! Those are something I need to tell Elder Barnes about.