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Animal Collective turn the clocks back on new album 'Time Skiffs'

Animal Collective - 'Time Skiffs'

Animal Collective’s first album in six years, Time Skiffs, is a captivating listen. The four-piece sound at ease, safe in the knowledge of understanding their true identity, a feeling that has arrived after a decade of testing since the band’s first commercial breakthrough.

The late 2000s were filled with psychedelic infused indie-pop bands, and Animal Collective’s 2009 release Merriweather Post Pavilion made them arguably the most exciting of the bunch. For a while, it felt as though this was the direction that alternative music was heading in, and it laid the groundwork for artists such as Tame Impala and countless others to thrive.

However, this particular musical explosion has been far less compelling since that initial flux of releases, Animal Collective’s follow up, Centipede Hz, felt messy and unassured. Shortly after, 2016’s Painting With was equally confusing. It seemed hard to imagine Animal Collective returning to form, but, thankfully, Time Skiffs is a thoroughly thrilling listen that sees the group return to doing what they do best — even if they are past their zenith.

As the headline of this article suggests, the album’s general theme is one of passing time, which feels especially relevant considering how the last two years have whistled by in the blink of an eye. The record is a sprawling effort which, despite only boasting nine tracks, lasts for over 45-minutes, and the band allows each song time to breathe with their textured eccentric sound, which is cushioned with Animal Collective’s trademark rich harmonies.

Time Skiffs is an album that you need to let wash over you and completely absorb yourself in a zen-like state. There’s also a comforting appeal to the record, and frontman Panda Bear’s (Noah Lennox) soothing energy is infectious. ‘Cherokee’ is the longest track on the release with a running time of close to eight minutes, which begins with Lennox’s contemplations about life as he hushedly sings: “Late for its arrival, My mind’s begun to find, Early peculiarities are how it defines time”. It only gets more intriguing as the track builds and arrives at this hypnotising chorus before gradually mellowing out.

‘Strung With Everything’, meanwhile, is a more conventional slice of pop by Animal Collective’s lofty standards. It’s another riveting piece that takes you as a listener to a blissful sonic location that simply needs to be enjoyed rather than trying to second guess where it’s heading.

Another highlight is ‘Walker’, an effort that arrives as the band’s tribute to the late Scott Walker, and finds Lennox singing: “Goin’ through the motions, Put the baggage down, Goin’ to resign and grieve”.

The closing track, ‘Royal and Desire’ brings the journey of Time Skiffs to a harmonious end, and the peaceful album is epitomised in the lines: “Don’t hold too long, Or think you feign insane for sane’s sake, Don’t break for song, Don’t break your name”.

Over the last decade, Animal Collective has taken experimentalism perhaps too far, signified by the lukewarm reception to their recent forays. However, on Time Skiffs, they’ve scaled it back while still retaining a level of weirdness because this is Animal Collective, after all, but just a more refined and mature version of themselves who are back feeling comfortable in their own skin.