Review Summary: Fans of Animal Collective rejoice! The collective's drummer/sound maker's new CD is a treat for the ears, combining warped Beach Boys pop with lush effects and beautiful melodies.
Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox had a whole lot of stuff on his plate during the writing, recording and releasing of his second solo outing, Person Pitch. He got married and had a kid and packed up his life and moved to Lisbon, Portugal. It’s hard to believe anyone in that situation would have the time to create such an inspired album, but Panda manages to knock it out of the park. Everything, from the cover art to the album’s eight tracks, is as strange as it is beautiful, dreamy and visceral, powerful and comforting. When staring into said art I often have the overwhelming urge to be one of those young children. I want to be the young boy in the straw hat, the one who the Panda Bear is lovingly curled around. I want to that little girl in the red cap, the one pretending to not be infatuated with this fine animal. I want to be there, I want to be them.
But music itself is a fine substitute for physical touch (believe me, I know) and Panda’s is no exception. From the moment Comfy in Nautica begins to the notes that Ponytail fades away on, it’s apparent that you can never be lonely listening to Person Pitch. The music is happy for one, perhaps ever more upbeat than that of Panda’s previous band, Animal Collective, it’s also lush, and inviting, without being to overly produced or watered down. Imagine a baby, to young to emit fully developed words, just gurgling and babbling away and you could probably get a pretty good idea of how this record makes me feel. The album’s second single, (there have already been four released) Bro’s, is a modern pop classic, a catchy piece of music that might not be horribly out of place as a Beach Boys B-side. Or maybe it would. It’s hard to say how the average Beach Boys fan would react to Panda’s blend of Noise Rock and Psychedelic Pop. Would they be lulled into a dreamlike state of musical ecstasy? Or repulsed by the way Noah takes their favorite band’s influence and warps into something completely strange and original?
Or would they just be bored? God knows how many people today (or even back then) could stomach listening to a 12 minute pop song, no matter how well-written.
But even those who can’t, should find something equally awesome, while significantly shorter, on Person Pitch. I’m Not is the way Amazonian tribes would chant if someone tainted their water supply with LSD (3:59) and the jarring array of trip-hop beats throughout Good Girl/Carrots should keep the listener as interested as anything Nickelback can cough up. The song itself (Good Girl/Carrots) is certainly a strange one. The production on the vocals takes a step for the weirder, bathing in more effects and texture than perhaps all of Radiohead’s OK Computer. The pounding, robotic bongo loops of the first half of the song (Good Girl) give an exciting break from the gurgling baby music, but it’s when these beats morph into the groovy piano based brilliance of Carrots that the goodness really returns tenfold. The beat forces you to dance and sing along (whether or not the lyrics are audible) and when it all drops out and Panda delivers the song’s hook (It’s not a ticket/for you to picnic) a smile will form out of even the most rotten molars.
The album’s final track is a more than appropriately pretty closing note. Ponytail brings everything that was good and better about Person Pitch together in one short, sweet tune. Over an atmospheric mix of heavily reverbed guitar melodies and heavily reverbed backing vocals, Panda delivers the lines “When my soul starts growing/I am as I was meant to be/And I know I will never stop growing” in a Brian Wilson esque coo. The song could be a look back at the months that preceded Person Pitch, or hopes and dreams for the future, but either way, it makes for a nice album closer. And with I think it’s safe to say that, Person Pitch just might be album of the year (so far, at least).