The members of Animal Collective — Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Deakin and the Geologist — bring their coldest and most hollow effort to date with their new album “Painting With,” released Feb. 19. This release shows a more distant and off-putting style, stepping away from the lust for life they usually exude.
There are metallic whirs and buzzes mingled with the usual warped and manipulated cheery vocals. The warmer acoustic guitar and synth influences from past albums have disappeared completely, giving this album less of an experimental, psychedelic-pop feel and more of an electronic-pop sound. The vocals on most songs consist of a collage of call–and–response words repeated or combined to form phrases by each band member, which has been their signature for many years. The change comes in the cold samples and electronic beats that clash with the brighter vocals.
This album makes what was once fresh about their vibrant aesthetic old and dated. It has been 16 years since their first album, and their age is starting to show. Glimmers of their youthful innocence from previous releases are still present in the song “On Delay,” but these moments are infrequent. The once wild jam–oriented freakouts are now filled with dissonant tones and screeches, which would be interesting if it were another artist, but not Animal Collective.
The production, despite having nonmelodic sounds and abrasive textures, sounds tightly put together and has less of the free and hectic joy the band usually employs. This becomes a major detracting feature of the album. The life in this album is all but squelched out and causes the small moments of true spirit to feel disingenuous and zombified. The energy and playful exuberance are gone, replaced by cold repetitions and warped beeping sound effects. They have incorporated zany electronic samples before, but here they are no longer playful.
This album is interesting on its own but is disappointing when compared to the band’s previous catalog. Many might find this album enjoyable, and it is at times, but longtime fans could find themselves regretfully wanting to listen to Animal Collective’s other albums instead. There is hope that the group’s sound will evolve and that it can create music that revels in youth while not falling into empty references to the past. The band members are getting older, and the reality of growing up brings the opportunity for different kinds of joy and excitement, but unfortunately, that doesn’t come through in this album.