Its frenzied nature prevents ‘Painting With’ from being hung alongside their best work, but it remains a colourful and energetic addition to their discography nonetheless.
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This Animal Collective review was written by Sam Forsdick, a Gigsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard. Header Photo by Erika Reinsel.
When it comes to divisive bands, few seem to split opinion more than Animal Collective. They are metaphorical marmite, with their schizophrenic instrumentals and nonsensical lyrics enticing as many new listeners as those they drive away. For many, it’s part of Animal Collective’s allure that they create music that is not immediately gratifying. Over the course of their 16 year career, the group have never remained stagnant, flitting between genres as diverse as freak folk, psychedelia, ambient drone and pop, as well as fluidly changing personnel.
For ‘Painting With’, the group’s tenth album, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Avey Tare (David Portner) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) take the reigns on the project, with fourth member Deakin (Josh Dibb) taking some time away from the band. The return to the lineup that produced 2009’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, often considered the bands musical zenith, coupled with the news they were recording at the legendary Western Studios, where ‘Pet Sounds’ (amongst others) had been recorded, helped raise expectations for ‘Painting With’.
‘Floridada’, the first song and lead single provides a positive start to the album, featuring many of the hallmarks of Animal Collective at their best. Intertwining vocals, gurgling synths and primal drum beats combine to make the most infectious track on the album. The back and forth between Lennox and Portner on the bridge is both as beautiful and disorienting as ever.
The unusual pairing of squelchy synths and experimental saxophonist Colin Stetson combine to make an unlikely hit on ‘Lying In The Grass’ whilst ‘Golden Gal’ is a bright and buoyant number which acts as an ode to gender equality and the strength of ‘gals’. Like so much of their previous output, many of these songs succeed in recapturing a childlike abandon that makes Animal Collective such a joy to listen to.
This is not to say that ‘Painting With’ is without its missteps. The fast paced thumping bass on ‘Natural Selection’ seems at odds with the rest of the album and brings few new ideas to the table, instead relying on echoey and almost indistinguishable vocals to carry the song. Similarly, ‘Summing the Wretch’ feels like it’s lacking the substance needed to demand repeated listens. It is no coincidence that these are the two shortest songs on the album.
The collective have acknowledged this by describing ‘Painting With’ as their Ramones album, referencing the fact that every track is succinct, self contained and over in a few minutes. The result is a project that relentlessly lurches from one corybantic song to the next, leaving little time for the listener to process and reflect on what they’ve just heard. On previous records, it is the low key moments that elevate the band’s work from hyperactive synth jams to something more transcendent. ‘Painting With’ eschews these calmer musical moments in favour of frenetically paced shots of experimental pop, which can at times be overbearing.
After repeated listens, the layers of electronic noise are stripped away to reveal an entertaining psych-pop album. Its frenzied nature prevents ‘Painting With’ from being hung alongside their best work, but it remains a colourful and energetic addition to their discography nonetheless.