Animal Collective have always been an experimental group, as seen on their album Sung Tongs more acoustic folk focus as compared to the more indie rock sounding Feels. Their most recent release, Painting With, is a change of pace from their previous album Centipede Hz, being a much faster and condensed album with Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Avey Tare (David Portner) making the return without Deakin (Josh Dibb).
There is a distinct lack of ambient tracks like “Bees” on Feels; the album moves at a quick pace through all twelve tracks in forty-one minutes, drawing inspiration from the Ramones, according to Geologist.
The reverb that defined earlier albums such as Feels is notably absent in Painting With. Instead of reverb, hocketing is used extensively throughout the album, but heard most predominantly in tracks such as “Summing the Wretch”, “Lying in the Grass”, and “Hocus Pocus”, where Avey Tare and Panda Bear alternate vocals such that one sings while the other remains silent. In other tracks such as “The Burglars” and “Vertical”, hocketing is put to greater use by Panda Bear in order to accentuate certain words instead of having very sudden start-and-stop in tracks such as “Recycling” and “Spilling Guts”.
Compared to other albums, there is a much greater focus on modular synthesizers and the percussion that the group was allowed to use within the studio. According to Geologist, “we’d use chairs, we’d use the floor, stomping, clapping” in order to achieve a variety of sounds and overcome the limited selection of instruments within the studio.
The album opens with “Floridada”, a high-tempo and energetic song that starts strongly; however, the rest of the tracks don’t follow in its footsteps. The following track, “Hocus Pocus”, is much slower and has a simple, repetitive beat, with a drone section provided by John Cale. The other tracks on the album speed up a bit, but they are never as energetic as “Floridada”.
The percussion in “Vertical” helps to grab the listener’s attention, and is aided by the vocals from Panda Bear in the background. The song is marked throughout by a low frequency melody while the lyrics mirror the verticality seen throughout our world, whether it be the mountains found in nature or the towers found in the city. The percussion in “Lying in the Grass” takes a backseat and instead starts simply with a reverberating melody mixed with hocketing vocals that slowly adds new layers, eventually reaching a nice mix with a fluty sound and clapping.
After “Lying in the Grass”, the tracks seem to blend together without being especially distinct until “Summing the Wretch”. Although “On Delay” has an excellent chorus and creates a wonderful unison between piano, vocals, and percussion, the tracks surrounding it don’t grab your attention quite as well as earlier ones and I found myself passively listening to them without noticing anything.
One of the singles, “Golden Gal”, is a great track that opens with a sound clip from Golden Girls and transitioning into a bubbly song featuring a nice harmony of Panda Bear and Avey Tare. The melody takes a back seat to the vocals, which has the narrator try to experience life from the perspective of the woman on whom he has a crush, allowing him to see the difficulties of the opposite sex (“You think the gals should feel so comfortable these days/ But the sexy genders bring some troubles to the fray”).
Painting With is closer in style to Merriweather Post Pavillion (MPP), since the two focus more on synthesizers, but this album does not have the same diversity in songs as MPP. While I would not consider it their strongest album and your enjoyment of the album is dependent on your attitude towards hocketing, Painting With is definitely an Animal Collective album that is worth your time.
By Alex Zelensky