Review Summary: Panda Bear comes to grips with his personal mortality
Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, has enjoyed a significant amount of success outside of the already iconic Animal Collective. Now settled in Portugal, Lennox is now married and is now a father. Last year, Panda Bear put out an EP entitled Mr Noah, which was moderately received. Panda Bear follows that up his brand new, fantastic LP Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper.
Lyrically, Panda Bear has come to the realization that death is a very real part of life. Face to face with the Grim Reaper himself, Lennox reflects on his own personal mortality, even with the fact that he is quite young himself (36).
However, Mr. Noah himself seems to deal with these topics with a very welcoming and at-peace existentialism. Even though Lennox knows what the future holds, he chooses to live in the moment. The opening track, “Sequential Circuits”, begins with a vast and ocean-like synth engulfing Noah’s layered voice in a sea of reverb. This transitions into the single, “Mr Noah”, which was present on the 2014 EP. This catchy, psychedelic melody’s most prominent feature is its echoed syllables throughout the chorus. “Don’t want to get out of bed, unless he feel like it justified,” proclaims Lennox. Panda Bear has a cheerful attitude to his present state of existence, but questions the purpose of each and every day.
On “Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker”, a dog with a broken leg is mentioned again, just as it was in “Mr Noah”. He states multiple times that “You really shouldn’t bring that other guy.” In life, as part of human nature, we are very exclusive human beings. We pick and choose who to associate with, and can be very unwelcoming to individuals who don’t fit into a prepackaged mold. So where does the dog fit in? Perhaps the dog is a symbol of our society’s outcast, the “other guy” if you would.
“Boys Latin” is the most repetitive track on the whole album, centered on a refrain repeated twelve times. However, this is intentional, as this choppy and disoriented melody drives home a major point. “Beasts don’t have a sec’ to think, but we don’t ‘preciate our things.” Lennox contrasts the human condition to the observable animal environment. The beasts don’t take time to appreciate luxury, but always are thinking of survival. As humans, we rarely appreciate what we have, but worry about how we are going to gain more, a paradox of power.
“Come to Your Senses” features the heaviest and grimiest synth backdrop on the album, as well as the most immediate verse, Panda Bears most sincere and vulnerable moments on the record. Lennox reflects on the mistakes he has made in life, and promises he won’t repeat them again in the future.
“Tropic of Cancer” displays Panda Bear at his most hypnotic state. Different from the rest of the punchy synths prominent on this album, this track features a lush and vibrant harp-like accompaniment. Lennox remembers what it was like to have his father diagnosed with brain cancer. The central theme of Meets the Grim Reaper, comes full circle here as Noah begins to understand the immediacy of death. As morbid of a thought to think of, we never truly know how close death (The Grim Reaper) is from meeting us face to face.
Far from a perfect album, there are a couple throwaway tracks on this record. An occasional lackluster and lifeless melody comes up on a couple parts on this album. However, minus a couple weak spots, Panda Bear has pulled together another satisfying and coherent records. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a warm and lighthearted record dealing with a topic that is anything but. Panda Bear’s signature psychedelia is taken to new levels and there is plenty to love with his latest offering.