Animal Collective - “Time Skiffs” Album Review

Story posted February 10, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Caelan Chevrier.

Baltimore psychedelia group Animal Collective is back with its 11th studio album, "Time Skiffs," featuring all four original band members for the first time in a decade. The record is also its first non-soundtrack release in six years, so there was quite a bit of significance weighing on their comeback LP.

Listeners first were teased about what was to come with three singles before release. This made up exactly a third of the album with their newest release totaling nine tracks and 47 minutes. So what was the final result?

"Time Skiffs" is grandiose, spacious, and blissful, yet at times can feel a bit empty.

The album is very production-oriented. Each track is exceedingly dreamy and sizable, and overall the listen is cohesive. Every song seems to flow perfectly into the next, and several tracks feature different sections, some of them sounding like individual songs entirely. The runtime on a few approaches six if not seven minutes and they are all filled with a plethora of noises.

It is almost incomprehensible how many layers are assembled on each track, from the vocals to the diversified instrumentation. On most of the singing, both Panda Bear and Avey Tare are in unison, sounding otherworldly. The bells, xylophones, synthesizers, and percussion make each track seem more peculiar as well.

The mixing and mastering truly take the cake here. Each layer is blended near perfectly, from the panning to the equalizing. The effects thrown on the instruments and voices are not distracting, but instead merged to give a psychedelic and euphoric effect.

Overall, the tone is relaxing but almost relaxing enough to put one to sleep. It is relatively an easy listen, but it might not retain all audiences. A casual listener or even a hardcore fan may not appreciate how slow-paced, and mellow the entire record is.

Although the vocal performances sound great, most of the time it is difficult to make out the lyrics. A lot of the lyrical content is metaphors and the meaning behind them is up to interpretation. There is nothing quite literal in anything the two sing.

The opening track, "Dragon Slayer," might be the most exciting part of the record. It is more upbeat than a majority of the record, and transitions brilliantly in between the verses, instrumental sections, and the chorus. It feels like opening up a storybook for the first time and diving deep into exploring the world that the authors have created.

The third track, and first single, "Prester John," is also a highlight. It opens with plenty of atmospheres and a steady bassline, and then when the drums are introduced, it gets even better. The song ends on a repetitive bridge, but it is entirely worth the wait as it is emotional and compelling. The last-minute of the track consists of weird synthesizer noises that help transition into the next song. 

This is not a typical pop album by any means. Compared to their 2009 magnum opus, "Merriweather Post Pavilion," it is less structured and has, unfortunately, has less appeal overall. There is a good chance that none of the tracks will have any commercial or radio success.

However, Animal Collective have found a way to reinvent themselves, which is seemingly difficult considering how experimental their career has already been. It is refreshing to hear how melodic and fine-tuned they are, especially comparing them to their contemporaries.

"Time Skiffs" might come off as a bit of a drag, but there is still a lot to be enjoyed here. The album comes off as audible artwork, and the visuals shown in the music videos add even more to the record. The album seems like what would flow through one's head during a nice dream.

It is hard to say what direction the group will go in next, but although not perfect, there is a certain warmth and comfort feeling that is given, and it is likely to stay a while after giving this record a listen.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewers Favorite Tracks: "Dragon Slayer," "Prester John"

Reviewers Least Favorite Tracks: N/A

Caelan Chevrier is a second-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email cjc6789@psu.edu.

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Caelan Chevrier

Second Year / Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a second-year student in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University studying broadcast journalism and marketing with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His plan is to get involved in numerous media-related clubs during his stay. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. He has also spent time working at The Westport Local Press in his hometown of Westport, CT. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).