Animal Collective’s 10th full-length project opens with the wonderful and energetic FloriDaDa, a single which I’ve been enjoying since it dropped late last year. However, the rest of this LP didn’t get the memo, RE: fun psych-pop tunes with catchy hooks and playful verses and instrumentation. Although a few spots on the record manage to create some sense of adventure and genuine sweetness, such as Bagels in Kiev, or Golden Gal, but the project as a whole is a forgettable and bland affair. After so much excitement, so much anticipation, so much optimism and faith in AC, Painting With feels less like an amusing, straight-forward pop record (what the boys were aiming for) and more like an unfocused and rushed collection of ideas that are strung together to create songs. It’s not that the album is terrible from start to finish- the drums and keyboards sound nice enough, and the vocals are pretty standard for an Animal Collective record- it’s just so damn uninspiring.
Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s vocals are fairly inconsistent on the project. Lacking the rawness of Centipede Hz, the singers prefer a softer and less harsh vocal style, which can sometimes become tiring, such as on the track Summing the Wretch, where there back-and-forth spoken exchanges can wear a bit thin, and the whole performance comes off as pretentious and shallow. The thing is though, I can’t deny that these two are the singers which made me fall in love with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and there’s a slight feel of meeting an old friend again after a few years- after all, their last LP was released in 2012. I’m glad to have the boys back behind the mics, albeit in marginally disappointing fashion.
The albums closer, Recycling is the epitome of what makes this record poor. It’s a barely developed and dull affair, which features boring percussion behind uninteresting lyrics and singing, and descends into a weird (but not wonderful) psych-jam complete with odd vocal samples after about 2 minutes. Instead of trying to develop these songs into forward thinking and upbeat pop songs, AC have decided to create an album of short and non-striking pieces of music which, whilst sounding pleasant, really provide little artistic or creative imagination.
Even Centipede Hz, a record which was met with slight harshness from fans and critics alike, had catchy hooks and some really intriguing musical passages. On Painting With, the Baltimore boys (minus Deakin) fail to provide many reasons to come back to the album, instead making loyal fans like me try their absolute hardest to try and get this record, like the band have some sort of vision or concept that us fans can’t understand. That’s not the case, though, it’s just that the album hits and misses. It’s not a great record, or even a very good one, but it’s definitely not bad- a bit like butter, or your toothbrush- just sort of… there. One can only guess what the band will do next, but one thing’s for sure- it has to better than this, surely.
Highlights: FloriDaDa, Lying in the Grass, The Burglars, Bagels in Kiev, Golden Gal.