Despite strong singles and memorable moments, the band’s tenth album fails to meet expectations
By Daniel Elliott /// Staff Writer
Animal Collective really have been around forever. To think, they used to be a bunch of teenagers going to a Waldorf school and playing strange, textured, genre-less music out the back porches of Baltimore county homes and starting their own record label. Now they are in their mid-30s, scattered across the better part of two continents, raising families of their own and releasing what is now their 10th studio album, “Painting With.”
I found myself, above everything, finding a lot of difficulty saying anything concrete about this album. Maybe it’s just the back and forth cuts that split up every lyric into a trochaic cacophony of sampling, but I cannot help but feel like listening to this album is a little bit like sitting in a room with Avey Tare and Panda Bear and having them take turns shouting at you. It’s unapologetic, it’s busy, it’s loud, and at times, overwhelming. To be fair, if “Painting With” is a shouting match, then earlier albums of theirs, like “Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished” were rusty nails being grated against a chalkboard. Those albums were quite beautiful, in their own your-friends-will-hate-your-ipod-auto-shuffle kind of way, and certainly worth a listen.
In the same vein, “Painting With” has a lot of good stuff going on within it, audio beratements aside. The singles “FloriDada” and “Golden Gals” stand out as fun tracks that work extraordinarily well to open and close out the record and, in a way, tie it down into a coherent album despite the writhing and complicated mass of a middle section. A kind of pop-y, jumpy tune pervades the album, and practically every song on the record has energy and immediate impact. In a time of Father John Mistys and Beach Houses where laid back chill jams and irony-coated tunes (shout out to vaporwave) are found on every street corner and Pitchfork article, it is perhaps not surprising that such an unflinchingly excited and peppy album is received with more than a little apprehension by its listeners at large; and for its enthusiasm, I salute “Painting With.”
Yet it is the re-listen, the greatest ally ever known to an Animal Collective album, that makes “Painting With” ultimately fail to really impress. Many an AnCo project has been, on first listen, a little hard to get into. But on subsequent visits, it is the deep subtlety, the grand buildup, the character and uncategorizable unique sound that brings one to not only like Animal Collective, but love them unconditionally. “Painting With,” as complex as it is, never really breaks down into something digestible and it never makes for a cohesive journey from the start of the album to the finish. Little islands of really great moments, like the last minute and a half of “Lying in the Grass” and the beginning of “Vertical,” as well as a few other choice songs make it worth listening to, especially if you were an Animal Collective fan already. The jumble of sampled vocals and blaring electronic sound effects, however, never quite unravel into anything spectacular or eye-opening. I just hope the boys of Animal Collective stick around the music scene to give it another shot, because it was still a fun project, and a hell of a lot better than “Centipede Hz.”
6.5 somethings out of 10