Animal Collective set a high bar with their output in the 2000s, and then undeniably lost steam in the 2010s, a period that coincided with the band splintering off into varying iterations of hit-and-miss solo and multimedia projects. You'd be forgiven if you wrote them off entirely after that. Latest offering Time Skiffs -- the proper follow-up to 2016's underwhelming Painting With -- signals that, after all this time, traces remain of the artistically unified unit capable of groundbreaking pop experimentalism.
If you want to feel old, consider the fact that Animal Collective are approaching their third decade together as a band. They have managed this achievement through an open door policy, allowing for solo and collaborative projects, and rarely rushing their album releases through. As a result, Time Skiffs - their first album as a quartet since 2016 - gives the strongest possible sense of homecoming.
Their first joint venture since 2016, Time Skiffs sees the Baltimorean experimentalists reassembling once more to lay down their eclectic credentials. With Painting With and the non-linear concept of visual album Tangerine Reef, sans Panda Bear, detouring from the baroque pull of previous releases, the outfit have nevertheless retained the harmonic core that has coordinated each effort; consistent in resisting any inclination to mellow despite intervening years of personal change. This eleventh record presents a kaleidoscopically feverish series of soundscapes structured with stream of consciousness lyrics, as could be linked to much of the four-piece's back-catalogue.
"Time may very well lend Merriweather Post Pavilion a legend extraordinary enough to faithfully capture its myriad treasures. By the time that happens, if it ever does and if we could even tell, Animal Collective will be somewhere else entirely, stoned and oblivious, making something new." — No Ripcord review, January 2009. I listened to Merriweather Post Pavilion again recently, the taste of the complimentary Kool-Aid that accompanied its phenomenally overhyped release all but a distant memory.
For over twenty years Animal Collective have wooed listeners with jubilant melodies and left-field experimentation. They are a band that's sound has gracefully evolved from the calculated chaos of 'Danse Manatee', to pop perfection in their more recently work. Amongst the ongoing evolution of their sound, they have maintained the ability to consistently produce exuberant records that harbour a tangible sense of escapism.