April 6, 2011

Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear has been the darling of the indie music scene and hipsters alike ever since the release of Person Pitch back in 2007. But he's one of those musicians that when I listened to him for the first time, I was confused, wondering why people would listen to this and like it (with the exception of Comfy in Nautica). Several months later and a reluctant return to Person Pitch found me singing a totally different tune, and I realized that I never really gave the hypnotic loops and soothing harmonies a chance to sink in.

Let me start by saying that this is a fairly different record than Person Pitch. On Tomboy, although constantly there (he still managed to keep me guessing how he makes the sounds that he does), the experimentation takes a step back and leaves more room for Noah's vocal harmonies to shine. The production is much tighter than the tinny sounds on Person Pitch. Also, while that album contained short loops repeated for long periods of time, the melodies here are stretched out, and the songs open up more. This makes the songs more immediate, especially songs like 'Slow Motion', 'Late Night at the Jetty', and 'Alsatian Darn', which are actually my three favorite tracks here (although I have to say, I don't like the reworking of Noah's vocals on 'Slow Motion' here as much as on the single).

The weak points on this album, though few, are pretty distinct. Friendship Bracelet is a pretty unpleasant experience, I'll admit, Afterburner, being just shy of 7 minutes in length, gets pretty boring after 2 minutes, and even after several listens, I still can't warm up to the title track, whose melody is almost aggressively repetitive. But that's pretty much all that's keeping this album back. Other highlights include 'Scheherezade', a beautiful, single-chord piano ballad that shows Panda Bear in a totally different light, and more unexpectedly 'Drone', which starts off sounding like it will be the most annoying track on the album, but turns out to be one of the most gratifying. And I couldn't think of a more perfect closer than the wonderfully dreamy 'Benefica'.

So there you have it. It's weird enough to hit the spot of experimental-loving Panda Bear fans, but accessible enough for newcomers, and that's why this album succeeds so well.

1. You Can Count on Me
2. Tomboy
3. Slow Motion
4. Surfer's Hymn
5. Last Night at the Jetty
6. Drone
7. Alsatian Darn
8. Scheherazade
9. Friendship Bracelet
10. Afterburner
11. Benfica

*highlighted = highlights (duh!)


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