Before now, Animal Collective was a band married to a routine. The habitual practice of auditioning and subsequently tweaking new material live in front of adoring audiences gave them the freedom to build and refine the music from nothing. It partially explains how a band with such a distinct and enduring legacy has managed to maintain it through their gradual, nearly 20-year evolution of making wildly unique and deeply beloved albums.
On Painting With, for one reason or another, Animal Collective have abandoned that method for a more traditional approach. Instead of piecing together the extracts of live improvisation into a somehow cohesive whole, Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist (longtime band member Deakin sits out this record) came together specifically to craft an album the old-fashioned way: self-contained songs, standard formatting, no major experimental disruptions. In many ways, Painting With is what Animal Collective sounds like when they stick to the script.
The first impression is that Animal Collective feels bound to a constricting method of songwriting that simply doesn't suit their incredibly elastic style. The band's newly dedicated emphasis on a durable, straightforward songwriting architecture interferes with their essential ability to capture hazy melodies in unexpected forms and jostle listeners between conflicting rhythmic patterns. Instead, they simulate it, mostly through a constant barrage of call-and-response vocal harmonies and swirling sound effects not new, but perhaps a bit overused without anything else to establish the fundamental psychedelic backdrop. Sonically, most of the album struggles to find that balance between straightforward, pop-minded musicality and the band's established, admittedly messy heritage.
Colin Fitzgerald, PopMatters
Many of Love Yes sonic touchstones hail from an undefined era, loosely framed by Donna Summer and the soundtrack to "The Last Dragon," with a healthy amount of Kate Bush in the middle. The album's many retro tics — the synth arpeggio in "Example," the strutting "Billie Jean" bass line of "Superhuman" — don't undermine it with a grab for the evergreen appeal of the '80s. Cyborg whistles and un-ironic funk are verbs in TEEN's radiant dictionary. They are also the shinier edges that stand out first.
Ultimate Care II
If there is a pair of artists out there who can "play" a washing machine, it's Matmos. Helping out are Dan Deacon, Max Eilbacher and Sam Haberman of Horse Lords, Jason Willett of Half Japanese, and Duncan Moore of Needle Gun. The next time someone asks you "how many avant-gardists does it take to play a washing machine?" you'll now have a punch line ready.
Wolfmother returns with a record that owes as much to 1976 as it does 2016, as much to glam as it does to heavy metal and as much to Andrew Stockdale's keen songwriting as it does to Brendan O' Brien's smart production. This is the kind of kick in the teeth this Australian unit gave us a decade back and it's high time we had that same kick again.
Ian King, John Garratt, Jedd Beaudoin, PopMatters
Other notable releases:
BJ the Chicago Kid, In My Mind
The Cave Singers, Banshee
Choir of Young Believers, Grasque
Essaie Pas, Demain est une autre nuit
Lake Street Dive, Side Pony
Yoko Ono, Yes, I'm a Witch Too
Ra Ra Riot, I Need Your Light
Mavis Staples, Livin' on a High Note
Wild Nothing, Life of Pause