Animal Collective
Isn’t It Now?


3.0
good

Review

by SandwichBubble USER (83 Reviews)
October 2nd, 2023 | 49 replies


Release Date: 09/29/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Animal Collective’s new outing sees them retreat even further into the comforts of their colorful psych pop tapestry.

Long gone are the days of the freak folk Animal Collective, where a fervent, chaotic energy pervaded even their mellowest tracks. But you already knew that. That Animal Collective has been missing for quite some time, actually. Some would even argue as far back as 2005’s Feels. That album seemed to kick start a new era for the band; one where they would pull more from psych pop and electronic sounds. Done poorly, this could have spelled disaster, but the collective showed that they were more than capable of transitioning their sound. Even with albums that I personally didn’t love (Merriweather Post Pavilion, Centipede Hz), I could at least understand their appeal. They were messy, noisy, surreal, and abstract, while also maintaining a playful, melodic veneer on the outside.

There have been so many ups and downs since then, that it would be impossible to list them all here. From the sporadic quality of the group members’ solo work to the band’s insistence on releasing film scores instead of proper albums to their EPs that ranged from decent (The Painters, Bridge to Quiet) to their best work in years (Meeting of the Waters). It was this instability, this unease, that made 2022’s Time Skiffs such an obvious play. It seemed to act as a reaffirmation of the band’s most successful, popular era. A sign to their audience to show that they hadn’t completely lost their collective voice.

So when I say that Isn’t It Now?, their latest release, is “just okay,” know that I say that with some level of understanding. Time Skiffs was a relative success: why not do that again? It just makes sense. Who am I to look down upon a band making a good record? That sort of thinking would’ve been alright after one or two underwhelming releases. It’s taken me this long to realize it, but it’s been almost a full 15 years since this group has released a full-length, non-soundtrack album that has stuck with me past a few weeks. This new album is just another confirmation that Animal Collective is more than content with playing it safe than truly breaking out of this rut they’ve pigeonholed themselves into.

Their most recent foray sees them take bits and pieces of their last 25 years together and blends them together into this soupy mid-tempo psych/ambient/dub pop mush. Opener “Soul Capturer” has everything an AnCo fan could ever want. It has layers upon layers of lush instrumentation and vocal harmonizing. It has acoustic guitars strumming along. It even has some distorted vocal shenanigans. It’s an overall pleasant listen. But as an opener, I could not ask for a weaker first impression. The whole album seems to wade in this more laid-back malaise, which I understand is the point. But there is so little to grasp onto on this album. Even songs that I would consider stand-outs (“Magicians From Baltimore,” “Stride Rite”) very rarely break away from the peace. A track most point to as a clear point of interest is the 22-minute behemoth “Defeat,” which is so bogged down in new age-y ambient drone that it’s hard to even pick out an interesting phrase from it. At least on their last big ambient record (the film score Tangerine Reef), there was a concept of underwater surrealism. This album has nothing of the sort. As far as I can tell, the only concept for this album was “good vibes.” Which just doesn’t make for an interesting album, quite frankly.

What I will say in Isn’t It Now?’s favor is that nothing on this is overtly offensive to the ears. There are a few low points, like the repetitive “Gem & I” or the indie disco(?) of “All the Clubs Are Broken,” but those are far from the group’s lowest moments over their long history together. Like I said when describing “Soul Capturer,” it’s an overall pleasant listen. But that pleasantness also the album’s greatest flaw. How long has it been since Animal Collective put out a release that was doing more than affirming their past greatness? At what point did they become something you could put on for your grandparents safely instead of having it befuddle and confuse them? I wasn’t just bemoaning the demise of freak folk AnCo to grab people’s attention. It was to remind people that this group, this collective, used to be bizarre. And seeing them sink into that colorful, patterned blanket to pull something this tepid out just seems like a waste of perfectly good fabric.



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user ratings (61)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SandwichBubble
October 2nd 2023


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Stream: https://anmlcollectve.bandcamp.com/album/isn-t-it-now

Sowing said I could, don't look at me like that.

Pikazilla
October 2nd 2023


29820 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

pos'd pos'd pos'd

someone
Contributing Reviewer
October 2nd 2023


6663 Comments


haters gonna hate and have good arguments to support it

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2023


60559 Comments

Album Rating: 2.2

Good stuff

Album is a bunch of innocuous fluff + you definitely pin down why without being overly unkind

SandwichBubble
October 2nd 2023


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm braced for impact, don't worry. Thanks, all.



@Johnny fluff is a good way to put it, yeah

Pikazilla
October 2nd 2023


29820 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

sandwich surely you're not scared of the smelly flannel donners typing irate comments on their crusty macbooks

SandwichBubble
October 2nd 2023


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm not scared.



I'm terrified.



Seriously though, I'd fear for my life if I wrote the 3/5 review MPP deserved back in the day. This, I doubt anyone cares.

Sowing
Moderator
October 2nd 2023


43962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for reviewing this, I doubt I would have had time and you did a great job.



I don't like this quite as much as Time Skiffs but it's nice.

SomeCallMeTim
October 2nd 2023


4158 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

damn that was fast

Pikazilla
October 2nd 2023


29820 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

'Seriously though, I'd fear for my life if I wrote the 3/5 review MPP deserved back in the day.'



Makes me wish you did lmao

SandwichBubble
October 2nd 2023


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

@Sowing of course! thank you for giving me your "blessing" (I usually don't like reviewing stuff staff would probably cover better)



@SomeCallMeTim the review or me writing the review? Because this has been out for a few days.



@Pikazilla just me saying Merriweather Post Pavillion is a 3/5 here will probably get an "opinion discarded" comment

SomeCallMeTim
October 2nd 2023


4158 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

haha what I meant was I woke up and you were talking about writing the review, then I got to work and its been written! nothing wrong with that

SandwichBubble
October 2nd 2023


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, I wrote it before I left for work haha we work fast here on sputnikmusic.com

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
October 2nd 2023


1787 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I really had no fun listening to this unfortunately. Nice review, though! :D

Ryus
October 2nd 2023


36967 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice to see one of the great american bands of our time churning out some great tunes

Pikazilla
October 2nd 2023


29820 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

this isn't a guided by voices thread

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2023


60559 Comments

Album Rating: 2.2

lol RIP america cope slump nation :[

Ryus
October 2nd 2023


36967 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

bet u havent heard here comes the indian or campfire songs johnny smh

Pikazilla
October 2nd 2023


29820 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

campfire songs is better than this agreed

bighubbabuddha
October 2nd 2023


578 Comments


Yo yo



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