Animal Collective (AnCo) have continued to showcase a steady stream of activity since the release of Painting With in early 2016, with continuous touring and even a short selection of singles that followed the last album. Those tracks, unfortunately, fell flat due to being overly obnoxious and even borderline childish, as if they were written specifically for a children’s television program.
Even so, Painting With was not exactly a killer record either and suffered from many redundant techniques and an overall lack of direction on the entire project with tracks such as “Spilling Guts” and “Recycling”, just to name the obviously bad ones. With the announcement of this EP, I was left intrigued but also wary that the group would release another piece that would not even top their last record.
After several run-throughs of this four track EP, I am happy to say that there is more here than my prior expectations. Starting with “Kinda Bonkers”, the first impression is that AnCo are back to a more acoustic or organic sound, at least compared to their two previous records that were highly synthetic. That being said, the music is still coupled with a heavy amount of electronic instrumentation. The entire track features a very Eastern style that fits the mystic theme that the Earth is rather “bonkers” and frankly, the song is quite catchy and does not overstay its welcome.
The middle tracks have their pros and cons, starting with the second song “Peacemaker” which provides an incredibly moody vibe that has been missing in AnCo’s music for so long. In addition, this track also utilizes the “echo duet” vocal technique that was run into the ground on Painting With. Funny enough, this style actually works very well for this piece and offers a sort of hypnotic effect that adds further contrast from the other tracks. Following this song, “Goalkeeper” serves as the “runt of the litter” so to speak, due to its directionless verses and premature climax in the first three seconds that leaves no space for the song to grow. The chorus is actually semi-pleasant but falls short due to the faults listed above. If anything, these tracks might have been better if they were conjoined into one two-part song like something off of Fall Be Kind.
This EP concludes with “Jimmy Mack” a cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ late ’60s soul/ swing tune. Seeing a song of this nature covered by AnCo is entertaining and admittedly catchy. The digital flutes and “swing” factor show a side of the band that feels fresh and the energy is comparable to classic tracks like “Brothersport”. Where it lacks, the song does begin to grow tired after the first or second chorus. Nothing new is provided in the latter portion of the song and therefore becomes predictable and stale by the end.
The Painters EP showcases that Animal Collective still have a few creative tricks up their sleeves, but just barely rise above the quality of their other lackluster works within the last year. This short list of songs is worth at least one or two listens, but do not expect any monumental return to form on this release. My honest opinion of this EP is a 6/10.