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Animal Collective loses momentum in ‘Painting With’

Special to The Prospector

Animal Collective is no stranger to avant-garde renditions of pop tunes, always finding uncharted territory to take its whimsical and adventurous sound. It’s ecstatic, and sometimes esoteric, songs have never followed the same structure and never found permanence under one particular genre or formulaic way of songwriting. They continue this exploration of sonic land in their tenth studio album, “Painting With,” which was released on Feb. 19.

“Painting With” is the band’s messy, yet cohesive poppy album. The harmonies on “FloriDada” warn the listeners of the crazy ride ahead of them. The track isn’t a highlight from the album whatsoever, but is a good forewarning to the bumpy and meandering road ahead.

By “Vertical,” the album’s third track, Animal Collective has made it clear that the scope of the album is everywhere. Most of Animal Collective’s past releases have been structured pieces of art, but “Painting With” isn’t one of those albums. It’s expressive, yes, but also distracting from the main point. Perhaps there isn’t one, and that is the point.

“Lying in the Grass” is one of the musical gems of the album. It’s the forth track on the album and a lot more comprehensive than its predecessors. Early 2000s electronica reminiscently dominates the track, but it is useful. “Lying in the Grass” gravitates the album back to the center where listeners can adjust and actually listen, which is good because it would have easily lost the attention of listeners at this point.

“The Burglars” follows a similar format to “Lying,” utilizing a bass and drums-like loop over harmonized vocals and intertwining lines. It’s on these two tracks that the band’s spastic vocals serve as focal points, similar to the usual Animal Collective sound.

On “Natural Selection,” Animal Collective yet again looses the listener’s attention. It is a pop disappointment, sounding a bit childish and entirely irrelevant. It’s obviously an album filler.

By the seventh track, “Bagels in Kiev,” the album has already lost itself in a sonic oblivion. The track is one of the albums highlights, beautifully layering the group’s harmonized vocals, a sweet and tender bass line and uplifting electronic upbeats, but by the time it rolls around, it’s highly possible audiences have already have quit the brush on “Painting With.”

“On Delay” is the album’s first bumper with a heavy bass and sporadic ad-libs. The album could have easily ended on this track. From here on out, the album becomes highly diverse, which is a good thing in musical terms, but not in thematic ones. It loses easily to concept and design, which perhaps is one of Animal Collective’s appeal, but it’s also the bands flaw, and in “Painting With,” that flaw is painfully exposed.

It doesn’t hurt any artist or band to sometimes paint within the lines for the sake of the listener. That’s not to say that all artistic venture and exploration should be sacrificed for the safety of comprehension, but it also runs the risk of having people call their art junk, which is slightly what the album is.

I applaud Animal Collective for exploring musical scopes bravely, but I also would have liked the band to mature in sound and in formula with this album. The band’s alt-rock, dance and pop conglomeration has been useful before. Having that sound in this album would have done it good. The album isn’t an entire waste, but most of the tracks on here are. If you’re looking for a quick—because most of the tracks on this album quickly come to an end—and distorted trip, the album will suffice. If you’re looking for a much more enjoyable and lengthy musical road trip, look somewhere else.

Jose Soto may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Jose Soto
Jose Soto, Staff Reporter
Jose Soto is a multimedia journalism major with a minor in creative writing. He joined The Prospector team in November of 2013 as an entertainment reporter. Jose previously wrote fashion blogs for various mediums. He has since written about musical performances, restaurant reviews, artist features and writes occasional columns. In addition to writing for the Prospector, Jose also writes for Minero Magazine and for The City Magazine. A fan of prose and lyricism, he also writes material on his personal time.  A musical enthusiasts as well, he strives to keep a broad music library and hopes to write music reviews while transitioning into news reporting as well.  He also highly enjoys coffee, reading a good book and dining out. Jose plans to pursue a career with The New York Times, The Denver Post or NPR.
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Animal Collective loses momentum in ‘Painting With’