Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
The last major outing for Noah Lennox – Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz – was a rather disappointing album. The stakes, therefore, were pretty high for this new Panda Bear album. Would Mr. Lennox find his footing again, or would it turn out to be another case of diminishing returns from a once-hot artist who managed to change the rules for a brief, shining period in the Oughts? Spoiler alert: it’s the former.
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper returns to the same sort of sounds that made Person Pitch such a delight. Unlike his last Panda Bear album, 2011’s Tomboy, it eschews a stripped-down focus on guitars and drums and returns to the sampler and the synthesizer. It’s electronic pop with a severely experimental bent, like Caribou took a lot of acid and played Pet Sounds with abandon. That last bit is maybe a bit more of a red herring this time around; while Lennox’s vocals on Person Pitch were strongly influenced by the Beach Boys, his work over the last eight years has made those sounds his own, and so now they sound less like the Beach Boys, and more like Panda Bear in its own right. The songs don’t cloak themselves in studio weirdness like on Centipede Hz, where all of Animal Collective’s tricks served to distract rather than enthrall. Instead, they get right to the point and stay there, allowing the weirdness to enhance your quality of life. There’s a bouyancy on these songs that cannot be denied, a quality that’s easy to spot on the singles “Mr. Noah” and “Latin Boys” but is also present on the slower, sadder tracks “Tropic of Cancer” and “Lonely Wanderer”. They’re cloudy songs with hope, and while they break up the joyousness a bit, the overall effect of the album leaves you feeling cleaner and happier than you were when you went into it.