Animal Collective has always been a group I assumed I would get into but I just have never found myself diving into their surprisingly large discography. Like many I think Merriweather Post Pavilion is phenomenal, I just have not been motivated to listen to more. Even leading up to the release of Painting With I did not have much of a desire to listen to them. Bottom line, I am not super familiar with Animal Collective but I figured this might be a good listen and would possibly get me to listen to some more of their albums.
Upon my first listen I can safely say that I am curious about the rest of this group’s music. Animal Collective’s sound definitely makes them an interesting act in alternative music today. They seem to be constantly trying to ride the line between energetic and chaotic and at times it works but for most of this album it works against them.
The production on its own is very clean and interesting, giving the album undeniable personality. Various sounds, both synthetic and natural, are constantly being thrown around, playfully bouncing off each other making this album a bit of a sonic collage. While at first I struggled to get into this jumbled sound, it has grown on me and I can see this album actually being listenable without the vocals.
This is not to say that the vocals are weak or the lyrics are poorly written, they just are not very cohesive. While the production is great, it largely seems to be taking over the vocals instead of accompanying them. Even with the lyrics in front of me I found myself struggling to make out what Animal Collective was trying to say here. This lack of lyrical understanding might take away from elements that make this album work, but I do not believe lyrics should be this difficult to interpret. You can write lyrics that take a few listens to truly understand, that is what makes music fun to listen to over and over, but when they are this difficult to keep up with it feels more like a chore than a joy.
There are moments where the lyrics are not overshadowed by the production and this is where the band succeeds greatly. The opener, which is easily the best song on the album, “FloriDada” paints a colorful picture of Floridian life and Dadaism which is directly mentioned throughout the track. “Bagels in Kiev” is a sweet song about fond memories with the singer’s grandfather and works because of its production being much less distracting. The track “Golden Gals” is among one of my favorites as well, focusing on the struggles of the modern women in a sincere way considering the group is made up of three men.
While I cannot rank this album up to Animal Collective’s other albums, I can say it is not nearly as good as Merriweather Post Pavilion but I am sure if you are a fan of this group, or music like this, there will be moments that you will love here. This was just not entirely for me and I do not see me going back to this outside of a few songs that worked very well for me. The fact that they seem to be releasing their best songs as singles leads me to believe Animal Collective understands which kinds of their songs work best and they can stick to that to make their next album great. As for now, this is definitely a unique sounding album considering what else is out now. If you have not heard Animal Collective before and want something new and weird to play in the background, this might be for you.
Best Tracks: FloriDada, Lying in the Grass, Bagels in Kiev, Golden Gals
Worst Track: The Burglars