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Painting With is the sort of album that you can imagine Brian Wilson would really love. And considering that the presence of the bandleader of the Beach Boys can be felt all throughout the tenth full-length record from Animal Collective, which was even recorded at EastWest Studios where the famed California group recorded Pet Sounds, you get the sense this exactly what these Maryland boys hoped to achieve. As a result, Painting With is not only the best Animal Collective album since 2009 (and arguably their best ever), but it could also go down as the closest thing this generation will have to getting a new Pet Sounds.
Famous for the revolving door participation of its members, Painting With reunites the trio that helped create 2009's widely celebrated Merriweather Post Pavilion--Avey Tare (aka David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Geologist (Brian Weitz). Their associate Deakin (Josh Dibb) is absent again after having returned for 2012's mixed and muddled Centipede Hz. Unfortunately for Deakin, it would seem that his absence has occurred once again around the release of what will be a massively successful and influential Animal Collective record.
With the beautiful vocal play of Avey Tare and Panda Bear filling out the sonic expeditions constructed by Geologist, nearly every song on Painting With is worthy of a dozen plays, beginning with the first track and lead single, 'FloriDada.' With a squelching synth that sounds like a digitized didgeridoo, tropical drums and airy vocal performances, this single may be the most poppy Animal Collective song to date and that is not a bad thing. The strength of the harmonies coupled with the bounce of the instrumentation make the Beach Boys comparison an inevitability from the album's outset, but the off-kilter allure of Animal Collective still makes this wholly their own.
Tracks such as 'Lying In The Grass' and 'Vertical' feature eccentric blurs of psychedelia, jazz and modern electronic music, resulting in a bricolage of sounds unlike just about anything in music right now. While Painting With lacks the complete thematic cohesion of Pet Sounds' lyrics (though almost all of them are dark, they meander from war in the Ukraine to gender politics to recycling), its innovation in what can and cannot be included in a pop track could prove to be revolutionary.
So many tracks on the record have an incredibly high "wow" factor, with instrumentation and unidentifiable sounds that are unlike just about anything I have ever heard. Yet, everything comes together in a remarkably cohesive product. The vocal arrangements are simply staggering, with the interplay between the singers moving with stunning speed, erudition and wit. Each song is a fine tuned piece of pop alchemy. From 'Spilling Guts' to 'Golden Gal' to 'Recycling' and everything in between, Painting With brings one triumph after another.
It is clear that Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist have honed in something game changing in pop music. In many ways, the fact that Painting With will likely be the most accessible Animal Collective album to date amplifies its potential impact, as the uniqueness of the record will reach even more listeners. This is a lush, intellectual and brilliant collection, constantly teeming with sounds, innovations and ideas. Topping Merriweather Post Pavilion once seemed like a nigh impossible task, but if any album could do it and enter the pop canon as Animal Collective's masterpiece, it would be Painting With.
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