Monday, April 25, 2011

Album Review: Panda Bear-Tomboy

Some pretext: I was not looking forward to Tomboy the way the rest of the world was. I had only heard snippets of the beloved album of yore that was Person Pitch, and no aspect of what I heard from it compelled me to seek out the rest of it. So the build up to Tomboy (the various mp3s, the singles found in record stores) was like hearing a new artist for the first time. Coupled that with the fact that Person Pitch does not serve as a frame of reference, and my view of Tomboy obviously lacks the prose and/or mindset that others will.

That all being said, virgin Panda Bear ears or not, Tomboy is a minimalist yet gorgeous album. Where my love of this album comes from is hard to fathom though. Everything that makes up this album, from the sprawling electronics to the use of vocals almost completely as an instrument is the obvious precursor (or now with this album, antithesis) of a genre I don't really like (chillwave). The album is also built on slow, stark, and simply beauty, something I rarely enjoy or appreciate in music I listen to. When I do, it's from the painful, quiet, organic side of music, i.e.Bon Iver or the Microphones circa The Glow Pt.2, not in the synth washed land of Tomboy. Yet, Panda Bear works these pieces into the glory of Tomboy, making everything I would normally run away from into something engaging and lovely with each passing listen.

In a general sense, every song on Tomboy has the same skeletal sound to it. A simply, yet intuitive piece of electronica looped over and over again while bombastic (but not intense) vocals come in win a mix between a one man gospel and one man Beach Boys. It's how each song is approached differently that creates the separation and in turn the expansion of the album. From the slow sprawl of "You Can Count on Me", it's like being transported the inside of a bleak dreamscape. Hollow and barren, punctuated only by the bursts of sound created by Panda Bear. "Slow Motion" a shimmer marvel of deconstructed pop song, electronic dream pop at it's finest.

The album can viewed almost like a wave, building with songs like "Surfer's Hymn" and "Last Night at the Jetty", before crashing into the drone of well..."Drone". The album peaks with "Alsatian Darn", the album's obvious center piece, as well as its catchiest and brightest moment. Despite being the point were Panda Bear sounds quite a lot like Animal Collective, "Alsatian Darn" is still completely a Panda Bear song, with drum beats that sound like claps and twinkling synth lines layered over beautiful vocals and cascade like a waterfall one on top of another. The album concludes with a trifecta of quiet, bleak ambient influenced tunes, ending in with the albums longest song "Afterburner", who's ending creates a spiral of music that keeps going and going and going...until the needle pops off suddenly and Tomboy is over in the blink of an eye.

(mp3) Panda Bear-Last Night at the Jetty


Panda Bear's Facebook
Buy Tomboy here, from Paw Tracks

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