Paw Tracks; 2011
Our Take - 8.1
It's hard to listen to Tomboy, the latest from Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear project
without comparing it to its largely successful predecessor. Panda Bear's most recent
effort deviates quite bravely from the sound of his last, 2007’s career defining
Person Pitch. On Tomboy we get no twelve-minute epic tracks that ambitiously
explore the possibilities and limits of a more tendered minimalistic and repetitious
approach (“Bros”, “Good Girl/Carrots”), and we get no bold sound juxtapositions
where two unlikely songs bleed into one another almost spontaneously. Instead,
we get eleven difficult and experimental tracks trapped into semi-conventional song
structures and recycled as warm and inviting pop songs.
Panda Bear has compiled a superb collection of solid go-to songs. However, the
songs have been scaled back and introverted to some degree with an increased
focus on maintaining some semblance of a more familiar song structure. Each track
operates within the closed system of itself and Panda Bear gives equal attention
and effort into demarcating a unique ambiance to every individual track. That being
said Lennox has still managed to accomplish a lot of imaginative things here while
reverting to a more conventional method of song writing. The lyrics, when one can
actually discern them or bothers to look them up, also seem more introverted and
tend to maintain a more focused emphasis on the personal (e.g. "You can count on
me," "Now I see you again"). Often times Noah Lennox orchestrates the focal point
of his songs around speaking directly to the listener or some singled out personage
lurking somewhere within the artist's own imagination. This more intimately geared approach creates a space for him to pronounce and reinvent universal truths where artist and listener can connect on the same plane-- not only with each other, but with the entire world (provided they have their ears open), and share in a unique experience of the music as in "Benfica,"
the album closer, when he sings out above the raucous roar of an apropos crowd
that "there is nothing more true or natural than wanting to win."
Musically Tomboy does not disappoint—a concentrated listen reveals a lot of dazzling moments. Somehow Panda Bear manages to structure a whole track ("Scheherazade") around one repeated chord on the piano, making the same harmony sound new with each bold repetition. He holds our attention in the album's dead center track, "Drone," as he fuses lyrics together, slowly sliding from one word to the next almost subconsciously so that we do not know how we came to abruptly arrive at the end of the track. "Last Night At The Jetty" will
certainly stand out appropriately as sing-along-material due to its catchy melodic
refrain and familiar chord structure, however, the way in which he presents this
unforgettable track should stand out as a testament to why we respect and admire
him as an artist.
Without question, Panda Bear's music, and his main outfit Animal Collective’s
music, have become somewhat of an iconic subgenre within all contemporary
experimental-pop music. Given the praise for Lennox’s own Person Pitch and the
instantaneous success of his band’s 2009 gem, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Noah
Lennox and Animal Collective fans alike must be asking themselves the same
question, "Where do we go from here?" Rest assured, it is safe to say that both will
continue pushing musical boundaries to incredible results.