US - New York - Full Moon 180 - 05/17/11
Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) put out his third, or fourth (depending on where to start counting) solo album in April, just a few months after Animal Collective colleague Avey Tare presented his debut.
Panda Bear serves more of his airy, bubbly, spaced-out pop music of the limit-less kind this time. He can easily be bagged along psychedelic folk acts, with his swirling, colourful, and often dizzying compositions. Where his very personal Young Prayer was of the experimental, spiritual, and transcendental kind, Tomboy somewhat follows up his 2007 album, Person Pitch, as well as the latest Animal Collective records; Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009), Strawberry Jam (2007), yes, even Feels (2005). Yet, there's a difference, since Tomboy is bigger sounding than those mentioned. And, mind you, many of the 11 songs are even arranged and structured as "conventional" songs.
Here's nice harmonies, cool/slack guitar riffs, and flowing/floating synths (both of the cold and warm kind). And, as usual, the Brian Wilson reference points. Panda Bear/Lennox is somewhat Wilson's twisted nephew.
"You Can Count on Me" opens the album, and it's like, 'yes, we can count on Lennox' when it comes to writing cool, mystical and enchanting songs. It's followed by the album's title track, which is a stunning, smashing synth-pop track. Catchy, cool, and indeed cunning in all its simplicity. "Slow Motion" follows, being another track of Lennox' repetitive, contemplative style. Then comes "Surfer's Hymn", which is a mild, no, a fresh sea breeze of a pop song. You can almost feel the water splashing in your face. In fact, well, maybe not this track, but many of the songs on Tomboy have got this 1960s vocal pop/surf pop feel. Wilson and his Beach Boys, of course. Jan & Dean, maybe The Four Freshmen. Throw in some 1980s synth-pop of the gloomier kind, plus some of the last decade's electronic beats and stomps. As a last ingredient
one might add 'world music' (f.i. 'Latino'), as there are some glimpses of music far off the straightforward Western pop formula. Lennox resides in Lisboa (or Lisbon), Portugal, and the album closes with Benfica, which sounds like being a tribute to the Portuguese capital's legendary football team of the same name. This is a fine example of Panda Bear's blend of musical styles. If trying to translate 'benfica' into English, you'll get: 'benevolent, or; 'intending or showing goodwill; kindly; friendly'. Which is quite a suitable description for Panda Bear's music, right?
Tomboy is maybe too much of a listen if you're taking all of it at once, but it's indeed a very fine piece of arty pop music. And, it's surprisingly catchy. Check out "Surfer's Hymn", "Tomboy", "Last Night at the Jetty", "Alsatian Darn". The list could be longer. Nice, nice. This is the Feng shui Panda, not the Kung fu one.
Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen