Thinking outside the box and playing around with unique sounds is something that comes naturally to American experimental avant-pop band Animal Collective. This is something that they’ve mastered the art of throughout the 24 years that they have been together, and their newest album, Isn’t It Now?, is one of their most unique and transcendent albums yet.
This album runs for 1 hour and 4 minutes, making it their longest album. A very special aspect of this release is that it marks the first time in a decade that each member of the band was present in the studio to record the album live. Something listeners can appreciate about this album is that it has immense range, enabling each song to have a very diverse nature that takes you through an experience. Isn’t It Now? is sincere and intentional, allowing each song to be a progression of emotion that feels vulnerable and raw. The sound of this album takes on an ethereal and dreamlike factor, using a well-paced combination of vocals, piano, electric bass, drums, guitar, percussion, and synthesizers. Animal Collective’s style is already very inventive, and this album isn’t necessarily trying to create a new sound, but rather to explore and understand the sound they already have.
Isn’t It Now? is reminiscent of their 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion which takes a lead on progressive pop. It basks in its own inventiveness and mixes several textures that make for captivating harmonies. Starting off the album is a very inviting track called “Soul Capturer” which carries a steady melodious rhythm. This track can be described as feeling very warm. It’s the kind of song that feels like soaking up the sun, and it truly sets the stage for the rest of the album. One of the most notable songs on this album is “Defeat”. It’s the longest song out of all the tracks, running for 22 minutes. This song is very raw and personal and seems like a track that the band truly took their time with. Oftentimes, a track this long can feel very dragged on and what’s beautiful about this song is that every second feels counted for. “Defeat” unveils many different layers and takes the listener on a transcendent journey. The song’s instrumentals take turns in multiple directions that play with a wide variety of melodies, and it feels like three songs put into one. “Stride Rite” is another track that stands out in this album, sharing a similar vibe with Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes. It plays with a beautiful piano chord progression alongside harmonizing vocals from guitarist Josh “Deakin” Gibb that translates into something heartfelt and bittersweet.
Isn’t It Now? suggests concepts of reuniting with the people you care about, letting go of things in the past, and grounding yourself in the present. It’s coded with a sense of nostalgia, while still trying to remain present at the same time. It’s a beautiful ode to friendship that signifies the group coming together to make this album possible.