Animal Collective: Painting With

I had very high hopes for Painting With when I chose to review it. I very much liked the idea of listening to ‘psychedelic pop’ and naively assumed that every single song would sound like Animal Collective’s previous hits, such as ‘My Girls,’ or ‘Leaf House.’ However, I was incorrect in this line of thought. In reality, Painting With is an album you feel you should respect because of its clear sophistication and of the many arduous studio hours it must have taken to create. But, to be quite frank, it’s extremely tiring to listen to and does not reward you for your efforts, since it doesn’t give you a chance to really appreciate any of its aspects because you’re too preoccupied with working out what the bloody hell is going on.

“the band cause the songs to suffer because of their annoying obsession with vocal technique”

The album features 12 rhythmically and harmonically complicated songs, many of which have their moments, for example the pre-choruses of the track ‘FloriDada’, the exciting Dinosaur-inspired first minute and a half of ‘HocusPocus’ or the drum and vocal call and response at the beginning of ‘The Burglars,’ however, on the whole these tracks just don’t really do the job.

Why might this be? Well for starters, none of the tracks have any consistency. Many seemingly start well and then proceed to descend into a repetitive chaos, e.g. ‘FloriDada,’ ‘Vertical,’ ‘On Delay’ or ‘Golden Gal,’ while the others actually begin in this chaotic state but manage to pull themselves back, e.g. ‘Bagels in Kiev,’ ‘Spilling Guts,’ ‘Summing the Wretch.’

Secondly, the band cause the songs to suffer because of their annoying obsession with vocal technique. Noah Lennox (‘Panda Bear’) and Dave Portner (‘Avey Tare’) sing in a disorientating style of duet, where they alternate the syllables of words rather than the words themselves. This is clever! Don’t get me wrong, and another aspect of the album that I can, once again, ‘have respect for,’ however, this does not compensate for or excuse the fact that it’s an absolute headache and must never be used again. What’s more, it is this technique that seems to be the leading catalyst in making the songs transition into chaos. It’s almost as if it’s egging the other instruments on and peer pressuring them into joining some sick cult, where they are brainwashed into thinking that this way of playing is audibly stimulating. Trust me you’ll know what I mean if you listen to the first minute of ‘Summing the Wretch.’

Painting With is an album you feel you should respect because of its clear sophistication and of the many arduous studio hours it must have taken to create”

I’m sure that with in depth musical analysis of these chaotic periods that I refer to it would become clear to us that there is actually a lot more we can appreciate about them. Perhaps we’d even take pleasure from them, instead of passing them off as sounding like a lot of different instruments and vocal lines shoved on top of each other, in attempt to hopefully create a wonderfully harmonious final product. However, this isn’t listening to music for entertainment guys, its hypothetical musical analysis, nor is it catchy, which let’s be brutally honest is a crucial aspect of most good albums.

2/5

Toby Livsey 

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