Animal Collective - Painting with LP
By: Jordan Roper
To preface a review of Animal Collective’s new album “Painting With,” I have to admit; Merriweather Post Pavilion (AnCo’s 2009 masterpiece) is possibly my favorite album of all time. They are certainly my favorite band of all time, and while I am biased, I tend to hold their releases to high standards. “Painting With” is their first full-length since 2012’s “Centipede Hz” which came with incredibly polarizing reviews. “Painting With” (like any AnCo album) is no different; any fan of a particular album may not enjoy the next because they have a tendency to completely switch their style and instrumentation from release to release. While “Painting With” has a shred of similarity to the electronic, synthesized deliverance of MPP, it is undeniably a different animal (no pun intended) altogether.
Months before the album was released, the single “Floridada” surfaced across the internet. It’s a bubbly and, at times, silly dance track that features a vocal back-and-forth from Anco’s two singers, Avey Tare and Panda Bear. As much as I loved the track, it made me wonder if “Painting With” was going to be a straightforward dance album. While this isn’t something that I would mind, dance albums tend to have less of an impact on me than something more experimental like Merriweather or their 2007 album “Strawberry Jam”. Animal Collective open “Painting With” with the the single which I thought was an interesting choice considering the direction the album ends up going in.
Track two, titled “Hocus Pocus,” alleviated my concerns. While having dance elements and remaining cohesive with “Floridada,” it takes things in a completely different direction (one that I was excited to explore.) The track begins with a vocal clip from a faux newscast, which is a reoccurring theme throughout PW. This is the song that really sets the tone for the album, with a deeper groove and more heavily textural space compared to “Floridada.” It’s hard to listen to the track without wondering how they would pull it off live; the vocals bounce back and forth in a hyperactive manner that is hectic yet enjoyable. “Hocus Pocus” captures what Animal Collective does best; take something that is super catchy and fun and stretch it out with synths and effects into a place that exists somewhere exciting and out of my comfort zone.
One thing I noticed listening through the next couple of songs (Lying in the Grass, Natural Selection, and On Delay, among others) is that Anco has a newfound love for grimey, flanged-out basslines like never before. The majority of the tracks on the album feature a prominent bass synth that wouldn’t be hard to find in a dubstep or house song, while the tracks themselves are distant from either genre. I’ll admit that if you aren’t a fan of that type of sound, you may have a hard time getting through the album. One thing that was really respectable about previous Anco albums is that they almost never repeated a synth or sample, which is definitely not the case in “Painting With.” I’m sure some will chalk this up as being lazy, but personally I feel like it gives the album cohesion.
The album comes to a close with “Recycling,” which is arguably the most experimental track on the release. Personally, this one seems more heavily influenced by Panda Bear than Avey (both release solo albums and have quite different approaches) and I tend to like his stuff a bit more. The mixdown on “Recycling” is particularly great, and I would go as far as saying it is my favorite on the album. The swinging synths and vocal melody compliment each other in a way that couldn’t be replicated by many, and the subtle details seem more natural than tedious. It’s a great closer to another solid offering by Animal Collective, and I would be the first to admit if it wasn’t.