Animal Collective are a band that have always existed in their own idiosyncratic world. While this world may be one influenced by the wider musical landscape, and vice versa, it is impossible to deny that they carry a certain distinct quality to the breadth of their output. This is partly the appeal for fans of the band (myself included) when a new album is brought out and the question is raised: how will they broach these trademark quirks in a fresh way? With their tenth album ‘Painting With’, Animal Collective prove that they still retain a voice in a world that looks drastically different from the one that saw their formation 16 years earlier.
Starting with the title, it is a very apt representation of the music contained within. Before its release, they spoke of their intention to create an album that was a more immediate, visceral experience than their previous full length songs which often contained long droning passages. With these limitations in place, the ensuing songs have a restless, bouncing energy that doesn’t cease until the final strains of closer Recycling. It feels less like they are painting with brushes and easels but rather fingers dipped in bright pots of technicolour kids’ paint. But while it does have a somewhat ADD riddled feel to it, that doesn’t make it a childish piece of music at all. Sure it’s the sound of a band having fun, but in their world of lore, fun is a far more haphazard function.
Considering the song titles Spilling Guts, Floridada, and Summing the Wretch, and how absolutely volatile those sound, the band haven’t taken the route of making their music more digestible in any way. From the vocal hocketing and warped chorus of Hocus Pocus through to the hyper syncopation and Reich-esque looping vocal delivery on Natural Selection, it’s still very particularly peculiar music. Even with its cartoony vibe, the songs are less less Looney Tunes but more Ren & Stimpy. Despite this, it isn’t an entirely faultless album. Spilling Guts just sounds like a less exciting rehash of Strange Colores from Avey Tare’s solo project Slasher Flicks. The Burglars also suffers from its placement between two of the stronger tracks on the album and, as a result, feels like a more undercooked effort than the rest of the tracks on offer.
Despite this, it is a strong release; especially from a band that is now in its late teens. Considering the level of creative fatigue most other bands would experience at this level in a career, and with two of its members now fathers, the fact that they continue to produce albums so distinctive in personality whilst also retaining the indelible essence that makes their music so unique is refreshing in the current pop hemisphere of slapdash vanishing acts. While it likely won’t win them any new fans, it certainly proves to those already enamoured to stick around for the future.