There is an internal joy in much of Animal Collective’s music. It flows naturally from the well of the band’s collective soul. It’s almost tribal, but more universal. The Baltimore-based group’s catalogue, however, still remains somewhat inaccessible to the masses. The sounds too strange, the compositions often too jarring for the everyman or woman. Nonetheless, there remains a beating heart behind their songs that is human.
The Painters EP is a companion to last year’s Painting With, but it harkens back much further, back to albums like Feels, when tracks “Grass” and “Purple Bottles” would make you blush from the shear exuberance. Here, opening track, “Kinda Bonkers” boasts of the same energy, but it is more measured, and less erratic – which is something the group figured out with age, around the release of Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Press play and the song flows out with rattles and shakes, but a steady beat keeps it all concentrated. Despite the highly mechanical effort easily noticeable at any of the band’s stage shows, there has always been a natural element, and on “Bonkers” a choir of crickets fuzz through the track’s background, easing tension. It’s the natural measure on a track that speaks of unity. One can imagine dancing around a fire with the hum of the forest giving peace, but those moments can and should exist just the same in anyone’s kitchen. There are flames, celebration, food – it shouldn’t matter where we are, here is enough, here is a feast, and that’s all kind of bonkers. And Animal Collective delivers this message in a way only they can.
Track two, “Peacemaker”, moves from the forest to the water where concentric ripples spread out to recently departed shore. The use of auditory consonance is reminiscent of the Beach Boys in some way – a band well-established in the Animal Collectives lexicon – as layers of waves build and settle on top of one another. The song’s repetition reminds one of the mechanical nature of sitting by a lake skipping stones.
The Painters EP isn’t all picturesque natural landscapes, however. “Goalkeeper” finds the band back in their more jarring suits, pushing imaginations. It’s a throaty track that’s more in line with Strawberry Jam’s “Peacebone” than their more recent work, sending electricity through guttural bass notes and hammering its bouncy beat into your ear wall.
The biggest outlier, however, is the EP’s one non-new and original track, “Jimmy Mack” – a song made famous by 1960s Motown group Martha & The Vandellas. The song is the most ‘indie rock’ we may have ever heard Animal Collective be, and they are still able to infuse it with otherworldliness. It sounds as if the band is standing on top of a hill trying to transmit to a friend lost in space. Nonetheless, like the album opener, “Kinda Bonkers”, it speaks and feels of an emotion that can be sensed in any home, this time on the telephone.
The Painters EP once again finds nature meeting machine in a joyful union of sound. It’s an excellent extension of the accomplishments made on Painting With, but is able to dig further back into the Animal Collective catalogue, encouraging new listeners to find what they have been missing out on all this time.
For continued originality through natural unity, we give Animal Collective’s The Painters EP 43 out of 51 planetary rings.
HURRY – LISTEN – ANIMAL COLLECTIVE