Review: Animal Collective's 'Painting With'

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, February 25th, 2016 at 1:39 PM
Review: Animal Collective's 'Painting With'  by Britton Rozzelle

I have a complicated relationship with Animal Collective. At times, I love their pension for disharmonious choruses and simple basslines. At times, I like their hazy, almost nebulous lyricism. At times, they sound like what it feels like to be stuck in traffic on a day when the humidity level is around 89% and it's 100 degrees (in the shade).

To make a long story short, at times, they are almost unlistenable.

Unfortunately, a majority of this album seems to feel like that.

“Painting With,” the most recent release from the Maryland super-group attempts to make a statement, and draw listeners in, but all it really produces is uneasy feelings, minor annoyance, and painfully repetitious songs.

The opener, “FloriDada,” is a hot mess, to put it bluntly. It comes at you from all directions, like a majority of their songs. The bridge is the only listenable and accessible part of the song, with the chorus just sucking the energy out of whatever life the song had to begin with. “Hocus Pocus” starts with space-age synth and deep bass but quickly turns into a math-rock nightmare within the first two minutes.

“Vertical” and “Lying in the Grass” pulled me back in for a few minutes, with the former presenting at least a semblance of traditional musicianship, while the latter brings club rhythms to light piano with a jazz-fusion fundamentality that makes it relatively fun to listen to.

“The Burglars” and “Natural Selection” pave a horribly rocky and nigh-unlistenable path to “Bagels in Kiev,” a genuinely well-produced and thought out song about bagels in, you guessed it, Kiev.

“On Delay” brings part of the haziness that makes songs like “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” interesting, along with the strong piano that can be found in “Lying in the Grass.” Parts of the song are great, but it constantly flips back and forth between a strong hook and an aimless chorus. “Spilling Guts” throws us right back into the math-rock that assaulted listeners in “Hocus Pocus,” but the band managed to maintain, contain, and restrain it to the point where the song becomes a serviceable and acceptable transition into “Summing the Wretch,” which just plain does not do anything for me. It takes away all of the momentum gained from “Spilling Guts” and throws it away.

That leaves us with the album’s closer tracks: “Golden Gal,” a tribute to the “Golden Girls,” and their beauty despite their age, and “Recycling,” which sounds like a nightmarish fever-dream of “Congratulations”-Era MGMT meets an echo chamber.

I’m not going to say I had exactly high expectations for this album, but I was expecting at least something somewhat enjoyable, and aside from maybe three songs I don’t think I got that. That being said, if you’re into albums that sound like they’re actively challenging the definition of “music,” maybe this is the one for you.

“Painting With” is available now through Domino Recording Co. 

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