A majority of this album sounds like water; something like Brian Wilson singing melodies from a yellow submarine. Panda Bear has recorded a drifting voyage through oceans, what he’s called an album of personal growth and coping with age. The results are some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in awhile, where the focus for my ears are on the candy they get to gobble up.
Noah Lennox, under the guise of Panda Bear, has been making recordings since his high school days. It was there he would meet his fellow band mates for Animal Collective. Known for both their experimental and playful pop sides, although its members pursue their own side projects. Lennox offers the most renowned solo career.
He now faces the despair of a father reaching middle age or meeting the Grim Reaper. Although for my listens through the album, I pay more attention to the somber production, the subtle and gentle coasting music, the lyrics make the point of reflection evident in a broader sense. Take the second single and my favorite track from the album, “Boys Latin”. I find far more interest in how this track sounds, with the verses being an alternating vocal on either headphone, and after looking for the lyrics, I was surprised by the abstraction in them: “Beasts don’t have but a sec’ to think, but / We don’t ‘preciate our things”.
Interpretation is what Lennox has said he has striven for on this LP, and across the board, after figuring out what is being sung, it does require the listener to get analytical. To be more general instead of specific with his angst and emotions, its not a new form of songwriting, but it does work well with his music.
What immediately follows “Boys Latin” however are the only songs I find to not be as engaging as the other tracks on the album. “Come To Your Senses” is a very direct track, a way for Lennox to express some strained reflection of failure in lyrics like “Nope you won’t / Ever make that one again”. Yet this and the subsequent “Tropic of Cancer” I may have identified with lyrically, but musically it just didn’t hit me like other tracks.
My other favorite, “Crosswords”, is the particular song where I hear Brian Wilson, I hear the embodiment of the ocean, the underwater. It is a certain amount of a wake up call, as Lennox sings “You got it good / So good, so good”, a way for him to remember he has a lot to be happy with when he may be angry.
I haven’t been as invested in Animal Collective as I have in the members’ solo projects. This is another case of showing all the sides of one its members, particularly in a place of disarray. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a melodic adventure built around soundscapes and confrontation; for the listener as much as the musician.
Anthony Campbell // Staff Writer