After three years of silence from Animal Collective, the band has returned with 12 visceral songs on their tenth studio album “Painting With.” The band has always seemed to exist in their own musical space, and they know just how to twist their kaleidoscope of musical influences to fashion an entirely unique sound. Even with a wealth of experimental and psychedelic music exploding onto the alternative music scene in recent years, Animal Collective has managed to create something that is wholly their own on “Painting With”.
The songs are wild, fun and often at risk of bubbling over from intense energy, but Animal Collective knows how to practice musical restraint. The album combines the band’s pop sensibilities and experimental side, creating gems like the uptempo lead single and album opener, “FloriDada,” and the bouncing “Vertical.” “Painting With” does away with the ballads and extended jams that characterized the group’s last two albums, condensing their sound and songs into neat studio compositions that are often in and out in under four minutes.
Animal Collective’s metamorphosis makes sense, given the fact that this was the band’s first record that they wrote completely in the studio. On prior albums, songs had to connect with listeners on the road first. The studio setting meant the songs were contained within a confined space, with only the band as listeners.
This is a studio album through and through. Maybe the best comparison is The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” or, better yet, “SMiLE,” its loopier, more experimental brother. Animal Collective have never been shy about their affection for The Beach Boys, but this album wears that affection on its sleeve, particularly in its intricate vocal arrangements, which see Avey Tare and Panda Bear bouncing syllables off of each other, forming slightly off kilter harmonies and sugary backing vocals.
“Bagels in Kiev” and “Recycling” call to mind the aural freak-out of Beach Boys songs like “Heroes and Villains,” albeit filled out with various synthesizers and drum loops. “The Burglars” or “Natural Selection” bend indie pop into some of its strangest shapes yet, wielding the studio with impressive efficiency as they stack layer after layer of rapid-fire vocals, throw in weird instrumental effects and lead the listener down a rabbit hole that leaves little time for relaxation.
Animal Collective is an indie institution at this point. But they’re an institution that isn’t afraid to change things up. They’re not afraid to leave some people disappointed. “Painting With” is a fun blast of manic psychedelic energy, with no blank spaces and weird, twisting melodies. As each song plays through you can hear the album coming together; each piece builds upon the one before, until, suddenly, it ends. There is a brilliance to this album that shows us that, though they may be more than 15 years into their life as a band, Animal Collective is far from finished.
Animal Collective’s album “Painting With” is out now.
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