Panda Bear's New Sound – Crosswords EP
Noah Lennox, better known affectionately by his stage name Panda Bear, has perhaps the most successful solo career of any member of the psychedelic-experimental pop band, Animal Collective. The percussionist and second singer of the band released Person Pitch in 2007 and Tomboy in 2011, cementing himself as a capable solo artist whose fame as a songwriter and performer would not be contained within the restrictions of “AnCo”. His distinctive singing style makes him a much-loved member of the band and as a growing force (already one of the most well-known) within the psychedelic music community.
After AnCo's 2012 album Centipede Hz (which some felt fell short of their previous works), Lennox did not appear in the mainstream music scene until May of 2013, being featured as the guest and lead vocalist on Daft Punk's song “Doin' it Right”, from Random Access Memories (which more of you have probably heard than his actual solo work). His next solo release of late 2014, the EP Mr Noah, showcased a new sound that had previously not been heard – but one that definitely hearkened back to AnCo's sound on 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion (often regarded as AnCo's magnum opus). This EP preceded his first major release in five years in January of the following year, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. One of the most popular songs on the album, “Crosswords”, would lend the title to his following EP, released in August. Other songs, including “Boys Latin” and “Mr Noah” (the latter first off of the similarly-named EP), proved to be extremely popular. Lennox's new sound was typified by sonic and lyrical repetition, and with each repetition a new effect would be brought into the song, giving the work surprising depth and complexity.
Now, riding on this wave of increased popularity, Lennox released the Crosswords EP in August 2015. This work builds on the previously-discovered sound of his recent work: very lush production, and strangely catchy melodies, dunked in a very thick layer of reverb, delay, and reverse echo, all featuring his distinct vocals and harmonies. Despite being entirely created in a studio electronically (though Lennox is, again, a percussionist) utilizing occasional samples, the work has a strangely “organic” feel to it. The happiness and jovial attitude of “No Mans Land” (perhaps reflected, to an even greater magnitude, in AnCo's new single “FloriDada”) is counterbalanced with a subtle sadness in “Jabberwocky”, and the desperate lyrics emotionally delivered in “The Preakness”. However, perhaps the most … intriguing song on the whole EP is the final track, “Cosplay”: the whole song features just a few variations on the phrase, “Marijuana makes my day”. Despite having claimed to only having used drugs a few times in his life, the lyrics of this song leave us a little suspect. Still, it's a highly enjoyable song – and pretty funny, too.
Within the relatively small confines of electronic psychedelic music, Lennox has written songs on surprisingly broad topics: from contentment with life, heartbreak, depression, drugs “making his day”, and death, Lennox will hopefully remain one of the most talented and innovative pop musicians in his field. I and many others anxiously anticipate what he has to offer on the upcoming AnCo album, Painting With, to be released in February of next year.
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