Three years after their last release, Animal Collective dropped its newest album, Painting With, on February 19. Known for their experimentalism, this band from Baltimore, Maryland, goes beyond the boundaries of conventional music. Their iconic layering sound translates into music that is colorful and vivid. Listening to the band, no matter which song, guarantees a journey into the essence of Animal Collective.
As listeners of Animal Collective know, the band places a heavy focus not only on their sound but also on their lyrics. It puts much thought into how the music that backs up the lyrics can get to the core of the deeper meaning in their songs.
With this latest album, Animal Collective has shortened their songs – which usually average about five minutes – and has placed more of a focus on lyrics. There is still an array of sounds created by the band.Through using more straightforward lyrics, however, this album is less mysterious and the songs are therefore easier to understand.
Avey Tare, one of the band members, talked about the album’s themes in a recent interview with FaceCulture. He said the album heavily focuses on nature, society and perspective. The first song of the album, “Floridada,” was first released as a single in 2015 and got tons of positive feedback from listeners. It is a fun, upbeat song about Tare’s admiration of Florida, as he used to spend time there when he was younger and the appreciation he has for its relaxed culture. The song title is a play on words combining Florida with “dada.” This choice defiantly disregards conventional aesthetics and cultural values, giving the listener additional insight into Tare’s ideas and a deeper understanding for his fondness for Florida.
Another one of the more memorable songs on the album, “Vertical,” focuses on the “overwhelming aspect of height.” In the interview, Tare describes his attempt through the song to pinpoint all of the things in this world one has to look up at, such as “mountains in Kauai,” buildings, people or trees. The song underscores this theme of perspective and how looking at things vertically can make you feel a variety of sensations, from dizziness to awe.
To be sure, Animal Collective mastered the development of sounds to make its songs beautiful and profound in its 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavillion. (This is more specifically in “Brother Sport,” which breaks into a minute of pure sound in the middle of the song.) With this new album, although less trippy and less complex than Merriweather or its last album in 2012, Centipede Hz, Animal Collective still does a great job of creating playful, catchy tunes that entice the listener to gain a different perspective on looking at the world. A perk of having a focus on the lyrics is that it provides the band with a less frenzied and cleaner sound.
Animal Collective always stays true to its musical identity regardless of what is considered mainstream by popular culture. I think the reason people enjoy this band so much is because of that; it puts such an emphasis on using its unique sounds and lyrics not to make it different, but rather to portray the personal feelings or outlooks of the band. Painting With shows a different side to Animal Collective, once again revealing its depth and diverse creativity.