Painting With

Animal Collective

Domino, 2016

http://www.myspace.com/animalcollectivetheband

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/23/2016

For the first time in their career, Painting With sees Animal Collective aiming for something that they've never attempted before: immediacy. As far as the songwriting goes, there's no mucking about here. The songs on this record are quick and economical. It's the closest they've ever ventured to making outright pop music and some of their catchiest tunes can be found on this disc. Conspicuously absent from this album, however, is the reverb and echo that the band usually tends to drench their music in. As a result, these tracks are more direct and upfront in their sound than anything the band has done before. But that's not to say that this album is an easy listen by any means. As always, the band finds fresh ways to both amuse and confuse.

Complex vocal harmonies are something Animal Collective has always been known for, but Painting With takes it to an entirely new level. There are very few songs on this album where it could be said that one singer definitively takes the lead. Avey Tare and Panda Bear's voices are braided together until you can't distinguish where one voice ends and the other begins. Often, they act as an echo for the other singer, bouncing syllables back and forth between them like a real-life delay unit. At other points, they sing different lines simultaneously, coming together and apart as the tune moves along. This interlocking approach to singing results in many of the album's best moments, such as the tangled lines that spur “Hocus Pocus” and “Vertical” to dizzying heights.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Geologist's odd collection of samples and synthesized manipulations come gurgling to the surface on a regular basis, and aside from the vocal trickery, make for the album's most distinguishing feature. These bubbly beeps and boops wobble and wiggle continuously through every track as if the entire album were constructed from rubber bands and bubble gum.

The songs on this record make an effort to cram a lot into small packages resulting in the shortest Animal Collective album to date. “The Burglars” starts off innocuously, but deftly zips though a bunch of distinct melodies and tempo shifts all without breaking the three-minute mark; ditto for “Bagels In Kiev.” It's the most straightforward set of songs Animal Collective has ever created, though the loopy arrangements do their best to obscure that.

In spite of the album's plethora of short poppy tracks, I don't think it has much crossover appeal. Nothing here seems poised to match the success of the band's breakthrough single “My Girls” since the songs move too quickly and rarely stay in once place for long, making getting into the groove pretty tricky. But a few do tracks come close. “Golden Gal” in particular is one of the most instantly hummable tunes the band has ever laid down, and album opener “Floridada” is an exuberant psych-pop explosion, showing off all of the album's signature elements at their very best.

Some of the tracks lack the spark of the album's best material. “Spilling Guts” and “Summing The Wretch” blur into each other both instrumentally and melodically, marking the album's low point. “Natural Selection” fares slightly better, but lacks staying power. The overall sound of the album may be an interesting one, but it's not particularly varied, and these tracks just don't have enough unique elements on offer to make them stand out.

One of Animal Collective's biggest strengths as a band is creating unique yet district sonic worlds for each of their records to inhabit, and Painting With is no exception. They've never sounded like this before, and once the next album rolls around, they probably won't sound like this again. But it's precisely this constant search for new trippy territory that keeps me coming back to this band.

Rating: B+

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