Review Summary: Grim Reaper 2.0
To be quite honest, ‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’, felt like a disappointment in my eyes. Sure, it had Lennox’s signature harmonic vocals and the psychedelic production that has defined his work. But it felt…off. Many of the tracks’ instrumentals just felt lifelessly dull. The album lacked the playful spirit that albums like ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ and ‘Person Pitch’ oozes out of their slightly overrated, hipster pores. This seemed like it would be the end of this form of sonic experimentation, resulting in failure. Then comes along this surprise EP that sets the record straight and takes the sound ‘Grim Reaper’ played with and uses it to its fullest potential.
The improvements on here are easy to spot quickly thanks to a remix of “Crosswords” from ‘PBMTGR’. The original, while one of the better tracks off of the LP, just lacked that bright, fun sound to truly make it a top-tier Panda Bear track. This mix fixes that situation by removing the deep vocoder vocals that dominated the original, allowing the other electronics space to breathe and giving the peppy drum machines that were originally buried in the mix a chance to shine. The 3 new tracks alongside “Crosswords” further proves that there’s still potential in this busier, more electronic style. The tracks here are more groove-oriented, leading towards a catchier, more accessible effort. This slight stylistic change is most apparent on “No Mans Land”, which is driven by its danceable beat as various electronics fill up this bustling track, creating an album highlight. Similar qualities appear in “Jabberwocky”, a mid-tempo track filled with lush background effects that compliment Panda’s vocals on here quite well. But Panda Bear saves the best for last, as the slow jam “Cosplay” ends the album with his best vocal performance, dedicated to his love of weed. “Marijuana makes my day” Lennox croons over chilled synths and some subtle maracas, building the serene, almost meditative feel of the song.
Instead of an entirely new project, ‘Crosswords’ is more of an extension of ‘Grim Reaper’ than anything. Taking the flaws present in his previous effort and tweaking them ever so slightly, Panda Bear has produced a handful of tracks that live up to the expectations Mr. Lennox lives by. For people who felt that ‘PBMTGR’ could've been better, this may give you reassurance that Panda Bear can redeem himself. For fans of that record, this is simply an EP full of songs that rival the greatest tracks on ‘Grim Reaper’. Both sides win!