Animal Collective: Painting With | Virgin Media
Animal Collective: Painting With

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The 10th studio album from Baltimore's avant-pop crew Animal Collective reveals a change of attitude, a tightening up of format. Recent albums – 2009's astonishing Merriweather Post Pavilion for one, 2012's less cohesive Centipede Hz for another – have found them stretching songs to fit all their ideas in; Painting With sees them cramming all their flights of fancy into three-minute pop songs.

'Pop songs' in the very loosest sense, that is. Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist (to give them their unreal names; fourth member Deakin's taking a breather this time around) know all the pop signifiers, but all this savvy never quite results in the genre's true marker, a bona fide hit. Instead, lovely harmonies butt up against quirky effects and joyous choruses without ever creating something you'll sing in the shower.

Animal Collective are never going to dominate the daytime airwaves

Having said that, Golden Gal might have a shout with its buoyant swooning chorus and generous sentiment and maybe Bagels In Kiev's bustling freedom and wordless, floating hook will connect with all the right people. But when you consider the insanely catchy (and possibly insanely irritating) single FloriDada hasn't exactly lit up the charts, it's all too clear Animal Collective are never going to dominate the daytime airwaves.

Animal Collective: Painting With

That's not their brief. Far better to mess with our heads as the droning Hocus Pocus surges into an 8-bit computer game chorus, or the freeform woodwind of Lying In The Grass drags in some didgeridoo for an extended freakout. Animal Collective's experiment with shorter songs has only made them more dense.

So dense in fact, that singers Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Avey Tare (Dave Portner) need to share syllables to fit themselves into each track. The fragmented Summing The Wretch reveals them tumbling over each other, leaving us way behind. But you're never going to keep up with an Animal Collective record anyway – just grab what you can, it'll be more than enough.