Reportedly inspired by the Ramones, early Beatles recordings, Cubism, Dadaism, and (most bizarre of all) dinosaurs, Painting With finds Maryland-born, New York City-bred experimental pop troupe Animal Collective at their most minimalist, the oversaturated and otherworldly vocals Avey Tare (Dave Portner) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) have become known for are completely stripped away here in favour of clearer and more concise melodies that weave in and out of one another to create an intoxicating effect.
In the listening moment, Painting With is arguably the most melodic of Animal Collective's many records, and yet, it's also one of the least memorable — by the album's end, it's hard to recall much about the compositions here, even after a number of run-throughs. There's an awkwardness that, for perhaps the first time, doesn't feel wilful: Beats galumph when they should gallop, synthesizers squelch when they should soar, and even though John Cale and Colin Stetson assist in parts, they're swallowed up by Painting With's dizzying, Pollock-esque din.
Part of that is on purpose: While working on the album, the band reportedly tried to blur the lines — primarily through scattershot vocals — to make it hard to discern who wrote what. In the process, they've lost the collaborative, intersectional sound that's always provided a sense of humanity heart at the centre of Animal Collective. (Domino)