Panda Bear

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Domino

Jan 12, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share


Noah Lennox is really good at making beautiful music, but you might be forgiven for forgetting this on occasion. Lennox's band, Animal Collective, has spent much of its discography (Merriweather Post Pavilion a notable exception) hiding Lennox's melodic gifts behind waves of atonal drone and challenging musicalitynot necessarily a bad thing, in many instances, but it has the effect of making it a special thing to hear Lennox on his own with his Panda Bear project.

Panda Bear's latest album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, finds those melodic gifts on full display. While his last record, Tomboy, was a subdued affair, mixing Krautrock with more dirge-y, pensive songs, Grim Reaper is a more boisterous album, its playfulness reflected in its cartoony title. While nothing here reaches the blissed-out pop of Person Pitch, driving songs like "Come to Your Senses" and "Mr. Noah" are catchy in a way Tomboy wasn't. Similarly, "Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker" has an enjoyable jauntiness to its melody that reflects the children's rhyme the title is taken from. Any listeners hoping for a sequel to Animal Collective's "Brother Sport" will likely find something to like in "Selfish Gene."

This is not to say there aren't moments of quiet or sadness on Grim Reaperthe personification of Death hardly makes for comforting subject material. However, when Lennox turns the tempo down, it results in the album's stunning centerpiece, the one-two punch of "Tropic of Cancer" and "Lonely Wanderer." "Tropic of Cancer" loops a simple harp line behind Lennox's echoing voice (never more Brian Wilson-like than here), and "Lonely Wanderer" achieves much the same effect with piano and gurgling electronics.

Overall, from its bubbling textures to its soaring vocals to its skittering beats to its careful sampling/instrumentation, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper serves as a fine reminder that Lennox remains one of music's most gifted melodists. While it's nice to have the controlled chaos of an Animal Collective album from time to time, it's nice to get some simply moving music as well. (www.pbvsgr.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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