panda bear tomboy
  • MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2011

  • Posted by: Joe Puglisi

Panda Bear works hard to bridge the gap between Animal Collective's early unintelligible electro-jam sessions and that stuff you hear on the radio. And he does a pretty good job of marrying the two, despite the Montague/Capulet type relationship between them. Although Noah Lennox has a sharp ear for fun and bubbly music for guys with thick-frame glasses and girls who might have used the word "alt" to describe themselves at some point, it's not quite worth the fellatio from Pitchfork. The songs have a definite and immediate quality to them, and they expand on the initial explorations of Animal Collective branded-sound first successfully hocked on Merriweather Post Pavillion, but to pretend like Lennox is some sort of "Avant-Garde-to-Pop" dictionary is giving him a tad too much credit, even if he did accidentally (or purposefully) spawn the chill-wave bubble. Tomboy is a lot of fun, but it's not shifting any paradigms.

It's not his fault. Panda Bear would be more enjoyable if it wasn't such a critical darling, always crammed down our throats as must-love-music; a quality almost all AnCo related things enjoy in spades. As someone who claims to be a fan of independent music, when you live in New York City, to be indifferent about Animal Collective and its derivatives is like saying you go to church but you don't think Jesus actually rose from the dead, just that he was a pretty cool guy. For some reason, the drone-happy machinations of four dudes who don't like writing conventional rock songs seems to resonate with people who hate Ke$ha. Fair. But take Fleet Foxes, or any pastoral-focused chant bands, and set them to whatever synth pads you have on your iMac with "bubble" in them, and you've got Panda Bear. It's not always that easy to recreate, but it's close enough that albums like The Suburbs and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy need to be in a different weight class.

I don't mean to make an example out of Noah Lennox, because I genuinely enjoy his music. "Slow Motion" is a nifty, sticky bit of playful looping and well produced (the technique of which reminds me of his collab with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox as Atlas Sound, dubbed "Walkabout", another good use of his talents to write one or two repeatable hooks and keep them interesting). The title track "Tomboy" find Lennox at his best reverberated harmony-mongering. But pretending that stuff like "Sheherezade" is any more groundbreaking that the works of AnCo already are (some of them, anyway) just doesn't make sense to me.

Tomboy has some really suave moments and is an enjoyable, cushy listen from start to finish. But in the interest of keeping the Animal Collective jokes to a minimum in pop culture, everyone wearing woman's size 12 jeans should probably stop getting on their knees everytime one of the AnCo guys sneezes.

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