It’s quite easy to name a dozen debut albums considered to be classics off the top of your head. The same goes for second and third LPs… you might even be able to find a few that arrived fourth that have stood the test of time. What, then, of tenth albums? Is it at all possible to hold any sort of court – any proper degree of relevance – when you’re ten albums in? By that time, chances are you’ve either been long forgotten or your new music is being released purely as a contractual obligation – an excuse to get back on the road and play those songs from the first few records that people are hanging out for.
Animal Collective are different – an exception to the rule. Quelle surprise: This is the group that has more or less defined itself on its differences, venturing out into the further reaches of the indie-pop spectrum and blossoming into one of the more celebrated acts within the more accessible spectrum of the musical avant-garde.
It wasn’t until their eighth album, 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, that Animal Collective truly got the recognition they deserved; highly achieving on both a critical and (relative) commercial standpoint. As such, they approach album ten not as sluggish, uninspired has-beens but as a spirited, defiant and exuberant outfit. They’re not interested in the numbers game – their central focus is being as good as their last hit.
If anything on Painting With demonstrates just how far from finished Animal Collective are, it’s FloriDada. Not only is this the most energetic opener to an AC record since the spasmodic “Peacebone” from 2007’s Strawberry Jam, it ranks as one of the best tracks the group have ever released. From its booming tom shuffle and irresistible hook (just try getting that “Flori-flori-flori-florii” out of your head) all the way through to its sneaky sample of The Surfaris’ Wipeout, it is a cohesive yet unrepentant beast of a song.
Admittedly, nothing else on the tracklisting reaches these lofty heights – although this certainly isn’t to say that the record is to be discarded out of hand at all. Golden Gal is charming and silly, incorporating dialogue from the classic comedy itself. Meanwhile, the motor-mouthed pace of The Burglars is one of the best examples of the vocal synergy between Panda Bear and Avey Tare, the group’s mainstays; harmoniously slip-sliding through a ricocheting beat and adventurous Gameboy bleeps.
The intention behind Painting With is to hone in on the more rhythmic, frenetic side of the Animal Collective sound, and this is something very capably achieved within the LP’s highlights. You won’t find anything particularly slow, and certainly nothing leaning toward the ambient side of things – but, then again, you’ve already plenty of material to work your way through should that be your proverbial poison as far as AC is concerned.
For all intents and purposes, Painting With can be chalked up as another victory for these evergreen Baltimore weirdos. It easily trumps its predecessor, 2012’s Centipede Hz., and its highlights rank up among the group’s faster-moving LPs such as the aforementioned Strawberry Jam and their exceptional 2005 record Feels. It’s the sound of a group having fun with its veteran status and throwing some fresh paint upon their well-earned stripes.
‘Painting With’ is out now, grab a copy here.