It is hard to know what to make of any Animal Collective record when the tunes are always best heard live through a wall of noise. Each new release from the band seems to work as a primer for the tour that follows, and almost two decades in Panda Bear and co have to strain hard to do anything different in the recording studio. The originality that is evident in Noah Lennox’s solo releases is though strangely absent when complemented by the other members of Animal Collective.
One of the highpoints of any Animal Collective record has always been the transition from dreamscape to having your brain overcome by noise – they were records that you felt as much as listened to. Painting With sometimes roams dangerously close to sunshine-pop Vodafone-ad territory.
There is though something lurking within that can be teased out. Painting With needs to be listed to loud on good speakers to pick up the depth that lies in the record – only then does it rise above zeitgeisty Knife-lite hipster electronica. This is a good record in its own right, but the question is whether it is a radical departure from what the band have done before, and whether it was a record that needed to be made. It lacks the ethereal quality of Sung Tongs and Feels, neither does it have the ear-crunching power that Strawberry Jam or Merriweather Post Pavilion packed in their best moments.
Nonetheless, the album is a rich pool of psychedelic pop to dive into, and its gentler edges are pleasant and radio-friendly. First track FloriDada is a standout, as is album closer Recycling but whereas previous Animal Collective releases have used the vocal as instrument and let both happily fade into one another, Painting With at times sounds like a series of backing tracks with the vocals laid on top as a cursory afterthought.
Animal Collective are capable of producing complete albums that flow from start to finish, but here they never quite reach a level of fluency to draw you in. For a band best experienced in a loud, dark and crowded room though, there is more than enough to warrant a trip to your local hipster gig venue.