Panda Bear
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper


4.0
excellent

Review

by Thuglifethor USER (5 Reviews)
January 13th, 2015 | 62 replies


Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Panda Bear Meets the Expectations.

Noah Lennox, known musically as Panda Bear, has been on quite a journey in his musical career. As one of the founding members of the well-known psychedelic group Animal Collective, he has contributed to some of the great albums of the previous decade, such as “Feels” (2005) and “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (2009). During his time outside of Animal Collective, he has released some notable work under his own name, like the infamous sample-filled psychedelic/electronic album “Person Pitch” (2007), and in 2011 he released “Tomboy”, where his sound evolved into a more pop-like, reverb filled sound, receiving mixed reviews from the Animal Collective fan base, leading people to wonder if Panda Bear, and Animal Collective as a whole, was plateauing in terms of creativity. If Panda Bear has now met death and its physical manifestation known as the Grim Reaper, it has turned out to aid in the birth of one of the most diverse albums that Panda Bear has created to date, and nowhere near his musical downfall.

It all starts off with “Sequential Circuits”, which opens the album up with some strong and broad synths, creating this feeling of adventure, as if you’re about to adventure out into the unknown. Then enters the signature harmonized vocals of Panda Bear, as the song progressively opens itself up. The warm sounds, and adventurous feelings provide a gateway into the first big track of the album, “Mr Noah”, which is familiar off of the “Mr Noah EP” that Panda Bear released in October, 2014. The decent-paced beat and mysterious whimpering sounds throughout the background provide a backbone for the repetitive yet bouncy vocals that Panda Bear puts onto the track, and it makes you want to continue bobbing your head along as the song progresses. The next group of tracks all continue to keep this upbeat vibe that “Mr Noah” creates, while creating a flowing stream of sound to start the first half of the album, but it leaves you asking... For an album that has the Grim Reaper as one of its main topics, where is the darkness? Where is the seriousness?

That’s when “Tropic of Cancer” hits. The whispering wind, followed by the looping sound of plucked stringed instruments, create this eerie scene, as Panda Bear’s vocals come in singing in a sad and down tone, speaking of the loss of someone in his family, due to a sickness. Everything slowly builds up as the lyrics become more and more strong over the 6 minute course of the song, and you feel as if this is the moment Panda Bear connects with that darkness of death as he spirals downward. The emotions the album emits continue to get darker and sadder as the song “Lonely Wanderer” comes around, releasing an avalanche of piano keys, all as Panda Bear continues to ask questions about the recent death of his family member, while also asking, “was it worthwhile?”, to the deceased person, as if he is worried he didn’t do his part in their life. This sudden blast of depression and sadness is what the album needed, and it is thrown at you in a way where you really feel for what Panda Bear must’ve been going through, in a way similar to his 2004 release “Young Prayer”, which was an homage to his dad, who had died that year. This is the definitive part of the album, in my opinion, where the album fully lives up to its name, and where the climax is reached.

After “Lonely Wanderer” though, the album gets a little off track. “Principle Real” enters, and all of sudden, the sounds have changed from sad pianos, to a mid-tempo catwalk type of drum beat with spacious synths and some pop-influenced vocals layered over it all. It throws everything that was just presented beforehand to the side, and this, I believe, is the main downside to “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”. Everything had felt so fluent and well put together, but then this comes forward? It just wasn’t that expected. Not all hope was lost for the ending, though.

The penultimate song, “Selfish Gene”, enters with a staccato synth progression, followed by Panda Bear’s signature simplistic vocals, which end with “You’ll trip up again, go get up again”, symbolizing that his sadness is ending, and that he is moving onwards in life. Though this does seem clichè and cheesy, it is a style that Panda Bear has embraced and used for years, most notably when he clearly states, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” on “Person Pitch”. It is as if Panda Bear is purposefully attempting to finish his latest album on a familiar note, filled with warm sounds and warm lyrics, and with that, the album transitions to one final song following the same intentions as “Selfish Gene”, and the album sets itself to sea. Yes, it isn’t the most climatic or eventful of endings, but it is the kind of goodbye where you wave and smile as your fears are left behind you, and the sun is rising on the horizon. It is a fitting ending to an album about a journey downwards and back.


So yes, “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” may not be perfect in any way, shape, or form, but it is yet another expression of Panda Bear’s life, and a terrific one at that. It invites you in with its diverse and welcoming sound, pulls you through a sea of emotion, and then lets you go at the finish with a warm and familiar resonance. If Panda Bear’s recent musical inspiration ended with this as the final product, it’ll be exciting to see where his next ideas will take him in his already intriguing, and quite brilliant musical discography he has crafted together thus far.


user ratings (285)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
brandontaylor (4)
Control over chaos, clarity over distortion....

Mattceinicram (3.5)
Panda Bear comes to grips with his personal mortality...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Thuglifethor
January 13th 2015


150 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Finally made edits and got it proofread, not to mention submitting it after its official release. Hallelujah. Hope y'all enjoy

wtferrothorn
January 13th 2015


5847 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This might have to be my first 2015 listen.

Sleaper
January 13th 2015


3480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

tropic of cancer and selfish game are pretty spectacular.

Better than tomboy, thats for sure

Collis
January 13th 2015


569 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Boys Latin is quality.

Pangea
January 13th 2015


3149 Comments


Mr Noah is a good song

shibole
January 13th 2015


37 Comments


"That’s when “Tropic of Cancer” hits. The whispering wind, followed by the looping sound of plucked stringed instruments"- literally my only gripe - c'mon it's clearly a harp!
It's actually Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.
Sorry for being a massive douchebag pedant.
Other wise good review.

There are seriously some bangers on this album though!

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
January 13th 2015


6743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

a couple solid songs here for sure, but idk man wasn't feeling this at all. review looks better than your first draft so well done, will read more thoroughly later

IronGiant
January 13th 2015


1642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agree with Johnny; unfortunately, not feeling this after a couple listens, despite enjoying it the first spin. better than Tomboy though, nowhere close to Person Pitch

Thuglifethor
January 13th 2015


150 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Person Pitch is almost untouchable to be honest, and with the progression of AnCo lately, I don't see another one that even sounds like that one coming anytime soon. Definitely placing this one second to Person Pitch though

Sleaper
January 13th 2015


3480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nothing and nobody will ever beat person pitch

AmericanFlagAsh
January 15th 2015


9036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Listening now



Mr. Noah still rules

Digging: FKA Twigs - Magdalene

AmericanFlagAsh
January 15th 2015


9036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kind of loses me in the middle somewhere



But still excellent

Son of Mr. Pain
January 16th 2015


24919 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

This fucking sucks.

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
January 16th 2015


15045 Comments


woah death tone it down

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
January 16th 2015


6743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This fucking sucks tbh not feeling this tbh but props for the snazzy artwork



ftfy

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
January 16th 2015


15045 Comments


i about had a heart attack reading deaths comment

so fierce

Son of Mr. Pain
January 16th 2015


24919 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

: D

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
January 16th 2015


15045 Comments


are yo u an anco fan at all

haven't jammed this but im looking forward to

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
January 16th 2015


6743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I like me some AnCo but this is some weak sauce. there's very few good ideas on this album and it's a lot of useless garish effects on top of 2nd rate lazy pop melodies for most of the album.

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
January 16th 2015


15045 Comments


doesn't get better with subsequent listens? ur making me less excited but i guess that's a good thing huh



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