Album: Animal Collective – Time Skiffs review

by Dave Bertram

Baltimore’s genre-blending pop masters deliver their most compelling and appealing record since Merriweather Post Pavilion

It’s going on thirteen years since arguably their artistic – and commercial – peak with Merriweather Post Pavilion. But where the careers of some of their peers took a sharp, upward trajectory (Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, for example), Animal Collective’s brush with crossover petered out, as hard left turns through following albums pushed their new audiences away.

New record, Time Skiffs, recalls that ground-breaking pop experimentalism – delivering the mix of abundant exploration and accessibility enjoyed so much at the end of the last decade. It’s a return to those arpeggiated synths, textured instrumentals and carefully constructed vocals that provide the cocktail of hedonism and hooks that is moreishly engaging.

To say it’s stripped back would be an exaggeration – but musically it’s simpler and the clarity shines through. No more so than on final track, Royal and Demise, which waltzes and sways its way through almost six minutes of three/four haze and vocal harmony. While on the seven-minute, Strung With Everything, rhythmically blasts through repetitive piano and drum-heavy pauses and booms that have a feel of Modern Vampires-era Vampire Weekend. It’s here where Portner and Lennox’s Beach Boy sensibilities shine through most, alongside lead single, Prestor John, and the xylophone-led, trip hop groove that is Walker – a fitting tribute to the late Scott Walker.

And while the genre-blending pop here doesn’t hit the swirling heights of the brilliant My Girls, Time Skiffs is arguably their most compelling and appealing record since.

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