With its 11th album “Painting With” (Domino), Animal Collective seems like it’s at a crossroads.
It opens with “FloriDada,” a crazy-sounding hodgepodge tribute to both the Sunshine State and the European art movement that sounds like Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox, Dave “Avey Tare” Portner and Brian “Geologist” Weitz are bouncing off the walls to expend all the artistic energy they are packing into the song, from tongue twisters to jittery rhythms. And there are several songs like “Hocus Pocus” where Lennox and Portner trade off lead vocals on every other syllable, creating a ping-ponging effect that forces the listener to listen to the lyrics even more carefully just to figure out what’s happening.
However, the band is also delivering more “normal” indie-rock songs like the straightforward “Golden Gal,” which quotes “The Golden Girls” dialogue, adds sweet harmonies, and bops along at a radio-friendly pace to praise women. On the sleek, synthy “Bagels in Kiev,” their intricate harmonies make the fascinating story more dramatic, even as they declare “Bagels for everyone!”
So will Animal Collective continue its sound experiments or opt for a more conventional future? “Painting With” offers no real clues, but maybe that’s part of its charm.