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New releases from Animal Collective, John Cale, and Lake Street Dive 

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click to enlarge Animal Collective
  • Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Painting With

Domino

File next to: The Beach Boys, Fleet Foxes, The Microphones

Animal Collective co-founders Panda Bear and Avey Tare released some ponderous solo work in recent months, but chose to indulge their absurdist side on Painting With. Over the course of 12 tracks and 41 minutes, they also shift away from the band's signature electronic instrumentals toward more vocal arrangements. Despite an overall superficiality and lack of dynamic range, something about Painting With is infectious, a mix of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds with Uncle Meat-era Mothers of Invention. There's a deliberate lack of profundity here, replaced with lots of vocal interplay fun on "Natural Selection" and "Golden Gal." Hard to say where Animal Collective will go next, but the band could only remake Merriweather Post Pavilion for so long. All in all, this is a weird and whimsical turn for Animal Collective, and could turn out to be a favorite. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge John Cale
  • John Cale

John Cale

Music for a New Society/M:FANS

Domino Recording Co.

File next to: Leonard Cohen, Diamanda Galas, Einstürzende Neubauten

John Cale has never been one to trade on his Velvet Underground fame, having long since left behind the music of those days. His main instrument now is keyboard, not cello. On Music for a New Society/M:FANS, Cale presents a deeply melodic, meditative approach. His voice serves as a handy abrasive element that nicely sets off the near-pop textures of his electric pianos. "Taking Life in Your Hands" features keening cello scrapes that fly in and out of the mix like transparent demons in a haunted house. Industrial sounds form the basis of the eerie "Thoughtless Kind." "Sanctus (Sanities)" feels like the VU classic "The Gift" as re-imagined by Phil Spector. Foreboding and more than a little challenging, M:FANS will please admirers, but isn't likely to win Cale many new followers. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Lake Street Dive
  • Lake Street Dive

Lake Street Dive

Side Pony

Nonesuch

File next to: Sharon Jones, Fitz & The Tantrums

Lake Street Dive have worked hard to avoid being pigeonholed as a 1940s be-bop revival band. In the process, they've assumed the mantle of late-period Motown revivalists. More than anyone since Hall and Oates, Lake Street Dive have made that style come alive, thanks to vocalist Rachael Price's songwriting and style, and to her three cohorts' stunning arrangements. There may not be a riff here as distinctive as "Bobby Tanqueray" from 2014's Bad Self Portraits, but Side Pony is still loaded with memorable moments. "Call Off Your Dogs" is an appeal for a lover's truce, the pains of a wallflower are described in "Spectacular Failure," and the album ends with the seductive "Saving All My Sinning for You." The strings and soulful sounds might suggest Commodores or Hues Corporation, but synthesizers and upright bass riffs keep Lake Street Dive firmly in 2016. — Loring Wirbel

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