This photo is captured by Hisham Bharoocha for Animal Collective.

It’s no secret that, compared to their prolific and groundbreaking era in the 2000s, the 2010s for indie rock and neo-psychedelic outfit Animal Collective were relatively tame.

In hindsight, the mix of longer periods between releases and having to live up to the unimaginable hype they had built over time was an almost certain recipe for divisive responses from fans. It’s not even that they were putting out particularly poor work during this period. Projects like Centipede Hz and The Painters still have quite a bit to offer in terms of the bombastic quality that made their early work so resonant. However, the lukewarm feedback the band would receive during this decade prompted questions about the overall trajectory of Animal Collective. Was the end of Animal Collective anytime soon? How would anybody know? What would it even look like?

It seems as though the concern lurking behind these questions was one about the intentions of the band, which is to say that it feels as though the philosophies driving their earlier releases weren’t as apparent in their current work. The 2000s for Animal Collective were a time of youthful romanticism and an uncaringness toward the larger structures that functioned within society. The next decade felt as though some of that spark had gone by the wayside, for no other reason than that they simply got older and more mature. And so, now entering a new decade with a new release, what things can be said about the future of Animal Collective?

Much of Time Skiffs feels like a careful tightrope act between attempting to recapture some of that juvenile sentimentalism and presenting a more mature sound. What’s tricky is that trying to replicate their old style too much can result in something that doesn’t feel genuine, and keeping something more similar to their recent work would feel stagnant.

Fortunately, for the most part, the album performs this balancing act pretty well. Returning to a more familiar vein of psychedelia, the band finds itself focusing on grooves to propel the music forward. Of course, it’s rarer to find Animal Collective not relying on grooves in some way, but early on it was done through nontraditional means. Whereas in prior records, guitar, synths and even the human voice were the main drivers of the music, Time Skiffs relies on Panda Bear’s laser focus on the drums. In general, the percussive elements on the album are the shining star, as seemingly everything else has to conform itself around whatever rhythm is currently being constructed. Songs like “Walker” and “Cherokee” would feel virtually lifeless without the consistent backbeat on the drums and gliding melodies on the xylophone.

While the percussion and groove is what centers this album, it’s all the other embellishments that really make or break it. For example, the use of vocals on Time Skiffs made songs like “Royal and Desire” — where the gentle texture of Deakin’s voice effectively works as the emotional closer — really excellent and songs like “We Go Back” — where the use of autotune produces an annoying grating effect — leaving a lot to be desired. And this presents a larger problem with the project; it’s possible that Animal Collective tried to do too much. In one sense, the chaotic smattering of ideas harkens back to the band of old, and when they do work it makes for some of the most engaging music we’ve heard from them in years. However, on the rare occasion that these ideas don’t click, they stick out like a sore thumb.

In the end, what we get from Animal Collective is a collection of songs that still don’t quite reproduce the magic of their early work, but nonetheless come together to create the best full-length project they’ve had in nearly a decade. As for the future of the band, this most recent batch of music certainly feels more inspired than anything in a while, so it could be the case that the 2020s will return Animal Collective to a point of relevancy rather than maintain its status as a point of reference.

Daily Arts Writer Drew Gadbois can be reached at