Painting With (by) Animal Collective is one hell of a thing. It’s easily one of the most anticipated and awaited releases for many freak-folk fans out there. It’s the holy grail of modern weird. And with it’s release, people had went wild. Animal Collective is very well known for their obscure and otherwise super creative use of sound –often mixing various electronic, indigenous, and psychedelic influences together to create final product that leaves you with one of the most colorful soundscapes imaginable. Now that the dust has settled, it might be time to look at Painting With a little more objectively.
Painting With is the best and worst of Animal Collective in a single album and overall probably one of their best albums in a while –better than the catastrophe that was “Centipede Hz” at the very least (truthfully, probably their best album since Feels but not quite Sung Tongs). That said, there’s definitely a polarizing factor here. The album is accessible and digestible –poppy. It’s good. But on the other, fans who have been following Animal Collective since their ‘baby days’ may be a bit disappointed to see that the band is continuing to branch in a bit of a difference direction. Still, you’ll find solace in the fact that all the familiar parts are still there. The instrumentation is golden. The vocals are on point as always. Painting With is a constantly building series of complex layers, melodies, and lyrics. Also, the hocketing. There’s a lot of hocketing. But what makes Painting With great isn’t the typical freak-folk song and dance AnCo is known for. It’s how much more accessible this one is.
While half of what makes Painting With great is all the whacky, wiggly, just plain weird effects and instrumentation you get –it’s totally worth noting that Animal Collective really spiced things up with a hint of accessibility this time around. Nobody is going to forget ‘FloriDada’ anytime soon –it’s poppy and exciting and we all get why it’s great. The real charm shows in the diversity of songs like ‘Vertical’, ‘The Burglars’, and ‘Golden Gal’. While ‘Vertical’ features some adorable and catchy lyrics, ‘The Burglars’ intensifies the mood of the album and shows a little more furious side of the band –with fast, almost punk inspired snyth work.
‘Golden Gal’ on the other hand, is destined for the radio. If Animal Collective was ever going to have a song so widely enjoyable –it was just destined to be ‘Golden Gal’. While the song maintains all the eccentricities that really make AnCo who they are, the song is just easily enjoyable. Something about the mix of rhythm and melodious vocals, the chorus has a sing-along vibe and it all shapes up into a great track.
Painting With is weird in the best way, spectacularly Animal Collective in style, and accessible enough to finally be digested on a larger scale. Most importantly, the composition is really truly great for the first time in a long time. The unfortunate folly of Painting With lies in just how ‘AnCo’ in style the band tries to be. That is to say, tone it down Avey –we get it.
I really enjoyed Painting With, but I think something needs to be said –there’s a point where too much of something good just becomes too much, period. The album is diverse in style and that’s good. But really if you’ve been following the band for a while, you’ll start to long for the older days. It’s like a super concentrated dose of newer AnCo. And that’s where the line has to be drawn. Painting With doesn’t introduce much incredibly new and instead just really capitalizes on all the gimmicks that have helped popularize newer albums. I’ve had enough of the hocketing, please, tone it down.
If you haven’t given AnCo’s latest a listen yet, just do it. Climb on the bandwagon and hear the full thing out. From ‘FloriDada’ to ‘Recycling’ –start to finish, you’ll be totally hooked. Don’t let the band’s charm do too much work on you though. While Painting With is making a huge splash as one of the best early releases of 2016 and ‘Oh my god the new AnCo!’ You really have to wonder –is it really that spectacular?
As a final thought –I miss ‘Danse Mantaee’ a lot, and I think many old AnCo fans can agree that the early days were the good days. Still, there’s some peculiarities to Painting With that raises a few questions. Most of all, whats with the band washing out those endings so much? It’s a bit reminiscent of how they revitalized Centipede Hz. Hopefully, with some luck, AnCo will take these ambiguous wrap-ups and use it to pump in some absolutely other-worldly jams for their live performances.
Animal Collective’s Painting With has been out for just a little while now and that said, we’re a bit late to the punchline. What did you think of Painting With?