Throwback Thursday: “My Girls” by Animal Collective

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but I didn’t start devouring music on my own terms until about high school. Even then, I often found songs and bands passively. This song is an example; I discovered it through the U.S. version of the iconic British teen drama Skins. It plays during the opening scene of the pilot, where Eura Schneider (their version of troubled bad girl Effy Stonem) stands outside after a night of partying. When you listen to the song, it’s an interesting choice for the scene. It’s not about partying at all: it’s about stability. All Panda Bear wants is “a proper house” where he can live with a little girl and his spouse. The little girl is his daughter, who was born only a few years before the song’s release.

“My Girls” really sneaks up on you. It starts out sweeping, shaky, as though there’s something trembling in the distance, built on all those synths. Panda Bear’s voice echoes through this establishing instrumentation, creating layers on layers. The arrangement seems to mirror Panda Bear’s dismissal of “material things.” Instead, he wants to focus on “a solid soul/and the blood I bleed.” He repeats those words for emphasis. Indeed, there’s a lot of lyrical repetition throughout the song. It grows into a bass-heavy tone that feels like a heartbeat, punctuated with hand claps. At the end, the instrumentation fades out into something that sounds like water rushing away, as if Panda Bear’s dream has come true and nothing else matters.

The song is taken from the album Merriweather Post Pavillion, which follows the trend of indie bands making great albums with weird titles. (See, for example, Bear Hands’ Burning Bush Supper Club or MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular.) Sometimes those titles serve as a distraction; they have nothing to do with the great music inside the album. Mostly, though, they set the mood. The title Merriweather Post Pavillion feels atmospheric, just like its best-known song.