Where's the bridge that's gonna take me home?
I'm gonna get to hear my two most anticipated albums of 2016 for the first time within two days of each other. Is this proof of a loving or cruel God? Will they compliment each other into a perfect 2-hour listening package or fight for domination of my attention? Is there a word I could use to describe this situation besides "hype" or a phrase besides "what a time to be alive"? If I just use both in the same sentence, am I the worst "music journalist" of all time? (W"MJ"OAT?)
The roll out of Painting With has been jarringly sane compared to the multimedia odyssey that was The Life of Pablo's release... You make an announcement, drop a few singles, give a release date, and then the album comes out. Sure, there was a bit of a flourish when the second single accompanied a multiplayer painting app, but this sort of branching out is fairly tame in this connected age, and was almost less surprising than nothing at all. It all seems to befit a band with almost 25 years of experience, with multiple fathers and members nearing forty, releasing their tenth studio album.
But c'mon, this isn't just A band, this is ANCO. Their current lifestyles might seem a major departure from the "go into the forest until I can't remember my name" 24/7 folkelectronica psychedelic freakout that fuels their music, but the fuel still burns bright. Like, that lyric comes from their latest album - 2012's chaotic, sometimes even abrasive, Centipede Hz. Lead single "FloriDada" is so exciting and alien and gorgeous that the video had to be at least that weird for it to be necessary at all. If there is something inherently wrong with a band routinely experimenting or tamely freaking out or making childlike whimsy in their late thirties, you wouldn't know it by the music. And, like we realized with Kanye, at the end of the day, that's all that matters.
Okay I've heard this one a thousand times before. Not literally a thousand. The drums are so good, with that little "pulling" noise like on Young Thug's "F Cancer". Panda/Avey trading lines is the happiest thing imaginable, and the way they shift into that athletic determined line so quickly... Having so much fun singing place names. And FLOR FLOR FLOR FLORIDA, FLORIDADA, FLORIDADA. I love that this song is about the impossible perfect place and you can imagine it being possible just because this song would soundtrack it. The way he says "Sweden" makes me happy. "I see the lights from Osaka", I wish I did. This whole song makes me happy. WHERE'S THE BRIDGE THAT'S GONNA TAKE ME HOME, this part is still my favorite tho, the way that Panda sings both in his falsetto and mighty speaking tenor... and the way that noisey jam starts up around 2:55, ahhhh, it's so good, so swirling... omg what a jam, what a happy happy noisy noisy time. I kinda already want to just listen to it again hahaha no we must press on. ***
2. Hocus Pocus
This was the name of one of Vonnegut's most underrated books imo. LMAO what is that sample. No dinosaurs to worry about OH OKAY lollll cute. And woah this super underwater dinosaur sonar noise. SO MANY WAYS and then they get all fractal LOL. This is bananas already. I love how a slow thumping beat this is. SO MANY TIMES UNDPEBANDMEMPDYTAOJNSOABCOLE ok. Woah there's a "8bit" sorta synth almost, it sounds really good. hooooooly this is amazing, "just when it starts to let go" and then silence. Oh I hear the title, ping ponging panned from side to side. ahhhhhh so many waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaays, lol it's like the opposite effect as before, now all slow rolling molasses. Atypical, typical, ahhh, antonym echoes?? What a jam what a jam. That single shaker sound was super nice LOL. Cool cool song, how do they think of stuff like this? *
Ooooh those climbing beats, that's such a cool effect, it's so foreign and OMG these vocal effects what theee. Ahh and then these multiple climbing vocal lines, like vines on the side of a house, you feel them grow and explore... Oh man the super low "empty" sound is so cool, how the hell?? "My feet can't cross a parking lot, the parking lot is way too hot", all these lyrics sound like the problems of someone on a major psychedelic episode LOL. "Vertical delight", an interesting way of thinking. "Pressure from the vertical", "I start to wonder if this system matters", what is this all alluding to? Oh man this is so... crunchy? Man i have no idea what word to use. It's like listening to Madlib beats LOL. that's honestly what it reminds me of for some reason. The stuttered vocals on vetrigo-o-o-o-o-o-o is so cool. And BIRD SOUNDS i LOVE BIRD SOUNDS IN MUSIC. **
4. Lying in the Grass
This was the second single but I didn't listen to it cause I couldn't download the app and I didn't want spoilers. Very strange, oh woah these cascading vocals, this is a major theme of the album. Ooooh the piano, a "sane instrument", and this awesome tight beat, WOAH AND THIS SWEET SWEET SAX, flying around everywhere. Sax? Maybe clarinet? I have no idea what these lyrics are I'll have to look them up later. "A virtue to deny the heat"? Oh man this vocal line has a really nice melody, ohh man and then this little burst around 2 minutes, "crippling fixture, trying to approach the hidden picture"?? Hmmm. "For a misplaced stash let's search through the trash" lmao suddenly it got so real. "Talk to cure my blister picture"? Dude all of this is way beyond me. Oh man congregation at the end, all instruments going ham BESIDES MY BELOVED PIANO WHERE DID YOU GO. so cool. *
5. The Burglars
screamin im a burglaaaaar, lol what. what the hell is any of this about? so fast and bumpy, and yet restrained. I don't understand his childhood anecdote, "Beware of the ivory man that will steal and sell"?? I have no idea what any of this is analogous for but OH MAN this song will just NOT SETTLE DOWN, this is going nuts, LOUDER AND LOUDER how, OH MAN WHAT THE HOW ARE THEY DOING THIS, WAY TOO INTENSE omg. AND THEN THE SHIFT AT 1:50, without losing ANY ENERGY, they get into this entirely new form and mode, like when the rocket... comes out of the other rocket... you know what i mean. holy shit what a jam, i am seriously tempted to just listen to it again. that slowdown too hnnng. ***
6. Natural Selection
wowahaah getting beamed up into something, into some sort of alien horse race jam thing. Woah I LOVE the synth at 0:25 and i have no idea how to describe it. Geeeeezzzz "aids aids aids"? no that can't be it LOL. I have no idea what's being said but the way that Panda's line stays flat and Avey's echo gets louder is so cool. "Sneaky waves"???? what the hell is going on???? This is crazy dude. "It's more sincere, the smiles on their face"? holy crap seriously i mean what is going on they are having SO MUCH FUN with this and so am i and i have no idea how any of this works or why. Sneaky waves. Kanye subliminal??? *
7. Bagels in Kiev
Uhhh okay, hmm, a return to the FloriDada place-name stuff? Ooooh, this is gorgeous, that little flourish. And then this glissandoing beat, like, what the??? What a nice image this describes, dancing at the beach. "These days I'm not sure who's getting along" :( but this song is about a nice escape. Who's grandpa? Ahh this sort of Beach Boys vocal harmonious scatting, but Brian Wilson may have only imagined this in a fever dream (or on 500ug+ of LSD). So cool. "Bagels for everyone, that's the kind of thing you would have wanted", ahhh, the sentimentality here is pretty nice. So nice~~~ ahh that outro tone, so crystalline... **
8. On Delay
AHH the way it shifts into a "computer" tone! Woah! WOAH! is this Yume 2kki music??? I HEAR IT DOUBLY CLEAR!!! what does it mean!?? oh man OH MAN here go HERE WE GO. "I'm sitting and fading", oh man these vocal handoffs, so slick... "The grandest canyon" hahaha. Oh man this rhythm on 1:10, on delaaaaaay, so cool. Oh and these little piano riffs PLS i love anco piano so much. Oh man the way the same pattern is roaming between all these different instrument sounds, growing in your ear... "It was niiiiiiice", yeah! sing about nice things in your lives! Oh man the vocals here are so nice, I like when they have some space to swell in harmony like that. Beeeautiful. Ohhh man LOL the warbly effects near the end here, how the heck? and then panda high flying falsetto solo, ahhh the delayyyyyyy. and then the decaaaaaaaaay. cool. **
9. Spilling Guts
omg this voice OMG. OMG WHAT A JAM. "No one wants a freefall off"? This is like a "coming through for you" sorta song I think, which has always been one of AnCo's most beautiful modes. "Way way back, before the thump"? like the big bang??? lol i have no idea. This is so cool, the structure so basic, like, this sort of forwardness of it, so solid, everyone synchronized and harmonized. What a beautiful message inherent in the sound itself. Come back come back come back. *
10. Summing the Wretch
Another strange dictionaryesque sample. What does it mean actually?? Ahh the little silences between lines is so cool, AH and the climb into the higher registers, SEE SEE SEE SEE SEE SEE. and this little instrumental bridge here, so nice so nice... oh man the little punctuating drum sound - "t t t t" - so quick, i love it. I have noooooo idea what aaaaaany of the lyrics, it's hard to make out when they're echo-trading like this. Soooooooooooo don't get caught up? something like that? i have no idea, called out to? I somehow appreciate the sentiment anyways. That is the magic. Nice. *
11. Golden Gal
AHHH OMG IT'S ACTUALLY A GOLDEN GIRLS SAMPLE WHAT THE HELL OMG AHAHHAHAHA. is this SONG ABOUT THE SHOW GOLDEN GIRLS??? tbh it's a pretty sick show. and this song is sick too, it feels "golden" on the seams, "give her a rose, we'll do sexual things"??? This is some definite reassurance-wave lyrics, thank you based anco. "My spirit is burning to hear from the girls again"... the Golden Girls??? THE GOLDEN GIRLS??? Is this their version of the Golden Girls opening theme but also about watching the Golden Girls? Thank you for being a TV show?? Oh man that little breakdown at 2:20 was so coooooool. These little glimpses. So nice. Maybe it's about Panda's wife? This one has way saner vocals than any of the other tracks lol. Just "regular singing" hahhaa. So groovy though oh man. "For awhile I will follow my Golden Gal", ahhh, so nice. **
Alright here we go, the finale, JAM OF A LIFETIME TIME? woahhahhahahhaa this intro, five new types of sound per second. both computer and water and insect. how? OH MAN and the way the melody emerges, it's like uhh summertime clothes! or daily routine! yeah this is SUPER MPP CORE, i was just thinking that i missed that sort of structure. the loooong lead in, ahh and then this vocal style on top of this, so rich so beautiful how how. Portraits, face to face... Interesting, interesting. Woah this super windy shifting sound, that's nice too, and the super physical chimes foregrounded. This is really nice man like... beautiful drifting sand sorta sound... loooong beach sorta sound. ooooh this little percussive jam, ahhh like clockwork, like the intricacies of a cuckoo clock. i love it :D ahhh what a nice outro! beautiful!!! ***
A rich, overflowing, jungle of sound!
Wow! What a nice album! What a fun, gorgeous, inventive, wonderful album! But I'll say right now... it wasn't much "more" than that. But uhh, given that list of blessings, what more could you really want? I'm not sure, exactly. All the songs on the album are pretty short, and largely in one "mode"... there aren't too many structural departures, or long interludes, or major shifts in tone. Like, there's little snippets of these things, but usually it's meant to provide only a minor remark before returning to the primary mode. The most major experiment on these terms - superhype "The Burglars" - is more just a "supercharged" version of this mode than an actual departure. Only the beginning of "Recycling" provided the sort of anticipatory structure that formed the backbone of Merriweather Post Pavilion, which in turn was really one of their most poppy albums - the long noisy interludes or ambient stretches of other albums a more distant memory.
It seems like they just don't have the audacity to make "masterpiece" sort of tracks anymore. When they hit on some interesting sound or pattern, they aren't so blown away by it that they feel a burning desire to let it rock for a minute plus. That might sound like a wholly positive thing to some fans distanced by these more extreme elements, but it takes away some of the dramatic structure that made their past work so jawdropping. It's a similar sort of feeling that I got from PBMTGR - that it's "all jam" now.
Okay, but with all that said, this shift also has tons and tons of upsides. This "mode" that they've restrained themselves to is WONDERFUL, and so unlike anything any other band could even dream of that it never becomes close to tiresome or plain. Beautifully interwoven harmonies, rapidfire echoes and traded lines, a mixture of the inventive and nostalgic in synths and instrumentation, the way of every line coexisting deep in some "jungle" of sound, bizarre samples and aesthetics, the feeling of coming home to an alien world that you knew only in your childhood... this is the very essence of Animal Collective.
They've made twelve gorgeous songs in this mode on probably their most consistent album yet. It serves as a perfect introduction to the band, displaying the range of their talents and energies without pushing any potentially offputting abrasiveness or repetition. That might seem disgraceful to fans who cut their AnCo fangs on "IF I IF I IF I IF I IF I" or "THE BEES, THE BEES, THE BEES" or especially "APRIL NO IT'S JUST A SPIRIT", but those albums aren't going anywhere. Painting With bears the joyous fruit of the band's long and bizarre past, and fills me with hope and excitement for a long future.