Friday, February 17, 2017

Animal Collective - The Painters Review



For many, last year's Painting With was the disappointing realization that legendary acts eventually run stale with ideas. Music listeners growing up in the 2000's, like myself, haven't had the misfortune to bare witness to former greats losing their touch, but, for many, Animal Collective's recent struggles have been the first official encounter. 2012's Centipede Hz was the writing on the wall, marketed by some as an artistic misfire in lieu of fading expertise. However, 2016's Painting With confirmed the looming doubts, falling even lower with another ill-fated aesthetic that ran its course after only a handful of songs. The creativity was shortening out as old father time began to creep up on Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and the Geologist. They were arguably the first boundary-pushing twenty-something's born out of the Indie scene in the new millennium, being out of touch with the youth was bound to be a deciding factor to their inevitable demise. Despite this they carry on, releasing, as has been AnCo tradition for over a decade now, an EP of outtakes. Coincidentally or not, The Painters defines the trio perfectly, finding two excellent tracks brought down by marginally forgettable duds that hinge on poorly-executed ideas.

One thing The Painters can't be criticized over is its length. Unlike Painting With, which spent 41 minutes toying with see-saw vocals that became irritating early on, this four-track EP is a mere 13 minutes. Considering the sugar-coated sound Animal Collective has gone with lately, this short length is perfect, and brings up similarities to of Montreal's latest EP, Rune Husk, which also excelled thanks to a restriction on time. Quality aside, good or bad, before you know it The Painters is over, limiting a listener's chances to dissect it, unlike Painting With which was riddled with holes left and right. Not only that, the structuring is situated correctly as well, placing the two best tracks as intro and outro, first single and second, leaving the middling duds, 'Peacemaker' and 'Goalkeeper,' to be essential afterthoughts. Speaking on behalf of those two, they're the clearest outtakes from Painting With, both going excessively over-the-top with vocal manipulations and maximalist production, leaving very little in the way of subtlety. 'Goalkeeper' does evoke some hints of Centipede Hz though, or even Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, with aggressive electro-explosions happening by way of countless synths. That alone puts it over 'Peacemaker,' a song that begrudgingly abides by AnCo's latest formula, nullifying any potentially pretty melodies with gross over-complication.

However, there's two songs left. 'Kinda Bonkers,' plain and simple, is how Painting With should've sounded. Avey Tare's vocals only accompanied by background vocal loops, similar to a Dan Deacon work, allowing his presence to beam through. Despite the nonsensical lyrics and, at times, discombobulated singing, 'Kinda Bonkers' is still a joy to withstand. It creates a lane for itself despite using the same sonic mindset as AnCo's latest shtick. Then there's 'Jimmy Mack.' To make things clear on why this sounds so different, and so much better than anything else here, it's a cover. Martha And The Vandellas 1966 Motown hit 'Jimmy Mack,' to be precise. And cover or not, this is likely the best Animal Collective song since 2009. I never considered how ravishing Motown Soul would be had it conjoined forces with Psychedelic Pop, but the result is astounding. Delectable singing and songwriting mesh superbly with AnCo's genre-bending production assets. Despite being the longest song here, almost by a minute, it feels as if it's the shortest, giddily leaping over itself in heaps and bounds. Everything, from Tare's singing which is wildly charismatic, the production which is Merriweather Post Pavilion-esque, and the sturdy imitation of the original song, excels here. For 'Jimmy Mack' alone, The Painters is worth it. Just disappointing it was preceded by predictable rubbish.

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