Founding Animal Collective member and resident Beach Boys worshipper Noah Lennox comes out with his first Panda Bear album in four years. Lennox hits the sweet spot between past neo-psychedelia flavours and layers of brawny and sprawling noise.
Playfulness seems to be a lot more present in this effort compared to his previous album “Tomboy” and it comes across well, with the vocal harmonies in particular nailing this tongue in cheek attitude. The production on PBVSGR was shared between Lennox and Spacemen 3 producer Peter Kember (Sonic Boom). Together, the group down a swirling aural overload well suited to Panda’s harmonies. Case in point: lead single ‘Mr Noah’. This piece opens with the whimpering of a dog and spinning synths, then jumps straight into a head-nodding smorgasbord of melody and some A- grade Panda Bear hooks.
While lyrics have played more of a passenger role in previous albums (bar Young Prayer), to create a focus on enunciation and melody, the lyrical content is more prominent here, particularly in the track “Tropic of Cancer”. This track employs a slow moving emotive ballad about “sympathy for disease” that floats quite beautifully but stings with some lines such as “When they said he’s ill/Laughed it off as if it’s no big deal/What a joke to joke, no joke” , which presumably recalls Lennox’s late father’s diagnosis with brain cancer as well as playing to the death themed title of the album (see Flying Lotus).
Altogether PBMGR isn’t bogged down by these darker lyrical themes but chooses to portray death as an agent of change from which growth can emerge, and while there is occasional filler, its ear for melodies sails it through to its place among Lennox’s most celebrated work.
Review by Laurent Shervington