by Sydney Britsch
The Painters: A New Canvas
Summer sounds and hypnotic hallucinations fill the air as Animal Collective plays on my speaker. It seems all too fitting that Animal Collective’s new EP, The Painters, was released just as Boulder was in the midst of enjoying a heat wave that somehow managed to sneak itself into the mid-February breeze. Chilling mixtures of sound and music combine to create a beautifully strange style that few other artists have been able to achieve.
“Kinda Bonkers” is the first song on the EP. It has a strong, yet playful African beat murmuring throughout its ever-morphing landscape. The base sound is continuous and meditative throughout with a pulsing intensity that builds and lightens, almost as if it were breathing. Combine the vocals on this track, which are more heavily emphasized, with the easily understood lyrics and you get a very catchy song that gets stuck in your head, even after just one listen. This same type of playfulness also appeared on Painting With, the sister album to this EP. Both of these albums share an upbeat spirit that is somehow squeezed into a couple of minutes on each track. This is in sharp contrast compared to Animal Collective’s older, more traditional tracks, like “My Girls,” that usually run much longer. At first, this strong distinction was bothersome because it almost seemed like a less genuine artistic expression. But if you get over the somewhat cheesy titles and puns, these songs still have an indisputable artistry woven within them.
At first listen, you probably wouldn’t realize that “Jimmy Mack” is a cover of a song originally performed by the Motown girl group, Martha & the Vandellas, because of Animal Collective’s cryptic style. This track transports me back to the 60’s because of its psychedelic intro with echoing sounds that transition this song into a dream world where anything is possible. Fluid sounds of water quickly turn into an upbeat disco-like dance tune with a chorus that mimics the original girl group, but a melody that is distorted throughout.
While listening to “Peacemaker,” an echo of vocals stream into the ear’s consciousness, which creates the sound of two songs overlapped on top of one another. The rate of the beat is like that of a heartbeat, which draws you in and makes you just want to sit back and hang out while taking in this relaxing melody. But the echoing can be a bit bombarding at times with only a few breaks from the incessant noise of the vocals, which is probably what grants this as my least favorite track on the new EP.
Whereas “Goalkeeper” contains the same bright spirit found within Merriweather Post Pavilion, with layered and ambitious sounds, which almost forces me to listen to this track with a smile. Right away this track grabs my attention with its fast, ever-changing beat that is continuously pushing the song forward. At one point, the bass drops out and it’s suddenly like the song is taking place in space, floating around while shooting stars fly past. When the bass comes back in, it sounds like the twang of a rubber band and there are two intertwining melodies introduced. This track is definitely the most complex sounding song on The Painters and because of this familiar and intricate sound, “Goalkeeper” is my favorite track on the new EP.
The beginning of all the tracks on this EP greatly resemble the group’s other worldly sound, but when combined with the vocals the tracks take on a more eclectic pop sound than the weird alternative fans have grown accustomed. Although I have some mixed feelings about Animal Collective’s new sound, I still think they manage to maintain a brilliant resiliency that balances the unconventionally weird with the catchy and compelling melodies that surpass an artist’s struggle to create something new, which in this day and age seems almost impossible.