Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was the apogee of 2009 music. The first time I heard the album, I was filled with absolute intrigue — complex and subtle melodies evolved from thin, scaly, harsh textures in unexpectedly delightful ways. I was carried to heights I didn’t before know existed.
The music was horrifying, yet it was wondrous, much like the first time I witnessed an eclipse or experienced a roller coaster. Its mystique drew me in and captured my attention in an unusual way. I didn’t know how to approach the organized sea of harmonies, but I sat with my earbuds tightly in and listened. For the first time in years, modern music had me captivated. Today, I attribute Animal Collective with having turned my musical perception inside-out.
Noah Lennox sings vocals for Animal Collective and plays drums and guitar for the band as well. Yesterday marked the release of his fourth solo album Tomboy, much anticipated since its titular single dropped in the middle of 2010.
Previous releases by the artist who goes by the moniker of Panda Bear spanned into the deeply abstract as scarcely-changing tones droned on for minutes. However, Tomboy is an interesting change in pace as what is easily his most accessible album release yet.
Stylistically, it mirrors Animal Collective’s 2009 release in its patterned intricacies. Sound fills every track’s crevices, expanding to include percussive beats and crunches. The experience is practically religious, though in his April 4 interview with music journalism website Pitchfork, he hesitates to let it be labeled as such.
“It’s not serious in a heavy-handed way — and I really hesitate to say it has any sort of religious or sacred feeling — but it’s in that direction to me,” Lennox told the website. He continued to describe the conditions of the recording studio — dimly lit, uncomfortable, isolated and in a basement in Lisbon.
Despite its studio recording setting, this album is anything but claustrophobic.
In “Slow Motion,” depth is portrayed with every reverberating beat. This piece is the impressionism of modern music; every meticulously placed, painstakingly perfected stroke of tone is visible under the microscope and up for interpretation. The listener is likely to get lost while attempting to sift through the multitude of layers.
“Alsatian Darn” plays with vocal inflections. Lennox himself fades into his music, becoming another instrument in the mixture. “Say, can I make a bad mistake? Say what it is I want to say to you, say what…” These lyrics loop into a cyclone of emotional confusion and somehow, the line between the listener’s psych and that of the creator fades into obscurity.
Tomboy is Panda Bear’s most recent release and one of the most emotive albums that this reviewer has ever heard. It’s mastery of riveting textures is matched by the unique mood it creates. It is the perfect example of this generation’s innovations in genres, and every listen-through is guaranteed to uncover previously over-looked details.