Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear is best known for his contributions to Animal Collective’s catalogue. However, in 2009, he made a name for himself as a solo artist with his album, Person Pitch, which was a massive critical success, deservedly so.
Panda Bear’s signature sound is comprised of repetitively looped dancey tunes that make you simultaneously want to dance as well as stare at one of those old warping Microsoft screen savers for an hour.
But one fallacy about Panda Bear and Animal Collective in general is that, “oh you need to be on drugs to like them”. That’s simply not true.
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper follows suit with Noah’s dreamy sound, but also incorporates more glitchy electronic soundscapes than the preceding records. It’s a very easy to put on and get completely lost in, while hardly even noticing that it’s playing.
However, certain tracks completely suck you into Noah’s distorted vortex of musical sounds. Namely “Crosswords”, which is a kaleidoscope of warping colorful sounds and reverberating vocals. With its more traditional rhythm combined with Panda’s electronic sensibilities, this shit just makes you want to break out into a goofy dance. Sort of like the indie electro version of Hotline Bling. Peep the video to see what I’m talking about:
The other hit song is the sinister, cosmic “Boys Latin”, which infuses some industrial sounding elements. Noah’s vocals soar over the track coming from every direction, leaving the sound echoing through your head long after it’s over. It’s a dope song, but it might be a little too repetitive to make you want to keep it on for real long. Again, it has an awesome sound and makes for incredible background music, but not much more.
“Tropic of Cancer” slows down into a heavenly, fluttering six-minutes. On first listen it sounds like you’re laying on a white puffy cloud while little midget angels play harps around you. But when you actually listen to Noah’s vocals you hear, “you can’t come back, you won’t come back”, and suddenly this peaceful dream seems more like a haunting nightmare. Quite the dichotomy. Great song.
Towards the end, “Selfish Genie” channels 80’s dance influences with some pulsating synths, but fails to ever really come to a great climax like you hope it will.
And in the end, that’s the theme of the album – really cool soundscapes on the surface that don’t have the ability to deeply pull you in as a listener.
While it features the same repetition as his previous works, you never totally get lost in the music like you do on Person Pitch, and even Tomboy‘s best songs (Alsatian Darn).
The distinct dreaminess of the instrumentation and Panda’s ethereal singing result in pleasant music to listen to. It does have standout songs to keep coming back to (Crosswords, Tropic of Cancer), but as a whole, it’s hard not to want more from this album. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper simply seems a bit too tame to be a can’t-miss album. However, if you’re a fan of Panda Bear’s style and previous work, you’ll find there’s plenty to enjoy about the album.
I swear Panda Bear’s music is better when it’s reverberating through your head after you’ve listened to it. You’ll find yourself singing “soo good, it’s sooooo good” and humming the melody to Boys Latin for days after you’ve heard it. While the album isn’t entirely exciting, it’s damn infectious.
- Boys Latin
- Mr. Noah
- Tropic of Cancer
- Davey Jones’ Locker
- Principe Real
- Come to Your Senses
BONUS: Panda Bear & Baby Bear