Animal Collective: “Painting With” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music:

Neo-psychedelia has taken some sharp turns in the past decade. While there are some “traditional” sounding psychedelic pop/rock bands out there like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, other bands try to expand the boundaries of even one of the most expansive genres. From their humble beginnings up through their most recent album, Painting With, Animal Collective(AnCo) is of the later description. With features by the great John Cale and also from Colin Stetson, AnCo have created one of their most sonically engaging records to date.

If you’re not a die-hard fan of the Baltimore-by-way-of-New York group, then you probably know them from their 2009 smash hit “My Girls” off of their universally acclaimed album Merriweather Post Pavilion. On their tenth album, and the second since that massive success, AnCo takes the sludgy synths off their previous album, Centipede HZ, and combine it with more traditional song structures then the band usually displays (the stomping digital sounds of “Spilling Guts” come to mind). Make no mistake though, this album is classic Animal Collective – the voices of both Dave Portner (Avey Tare) and Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) are front and center, while Brian Weitz’s (Geologist) programming gives the album the digital sheen and shine that has been prominent in all of their recent work (Josh Dibb, or Deakin, sits this album out as he was recording his solo debut Sleep Cycle.)

The sounds of the album bring to mind Lennox’s most recent solo endeavor, 2015’s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Many of the gooey synthesizer sounds and slick production techniques that showed up on that album appear here, particularly on songs such as “The Burglars” and “Natural Selection.” In contrast, Avey Tare’s wacky sense of song-craft is also prominent on cuts like “Floridada”, the album’s lead single, and “Bagels in Keiv”. “I don’t even know where to begin or how I should start these days/The green mountain south or the clay of the westerns,” sing Portner and Lennox on “Floridada”. The members of the band are now in the parts of their lives where wives and children may take the first priority ahead of music making, and AnCo seems to be trying to come to grips with this reality on Painting With.

This album isn’t a HUGE leap in the progression of the Animal Collective’s sound. From, say,” Feels” to”Strawberry Jam,”the freewheeling, face-paced feel of this record makes as a great starting point for new coming fans. Strip away all the crazy production on this record, and you simply have some great pop songs like “Golden Gal” (this record’s “My Girls”) and “Lying in the Grass”. All the “Beach Boy-isms” that the band gained respect for are there on this album, as are some fun and exciting new elements to the classic AnCo sound. After all, no one sounds like Animal Collective.