Monday, December 12, 2011

Person Pitch - Panda Bear

Person Pitch
Panda Bear
Paw Tracks  PAW 14

I saw Panda Bear at the Hollywood Bowl over the summer.  I thought his set was mesmerizing but perhaps the Bowl was not the best venue for him.  Most of the hipsters around me barely stopped blabbing and swigging wine to listen to him and my wife and kid were bored out of their minds by him.  I guess I can understand that.  Like a lot of electronic music his songs are repetitious, but they also have a pop quality that I find very remarkable.  He's like a cross between Philip Glass and Brian Wilson.  There is a sunny and joyful feeling to his music that distinguishes it from most of the electronic music I've heard.  This album is spread over two records but the sides are fairly short since the entire album is only about 44 minutes long.  The album features striking collage-style artwork from Agnes Montgomery and contains an insert that reproduces her artwork from the four singles that feature six of the album's tracks.  The insert also includes a list of groups and people who influenced the record and there must be close to a hundred of them listed comprising all sorts of disparate genres and styles.  Several of the artists are sampled for his tape loops.  The album opens with "Comfy in Nautica" which sounds like a psychedelic march.  It is a statement on how one should live.  I like the line "coolness is having courage, courage to do what is right."  "Take Pills" is another philosophy song that expresses a message contrary to its title, namely that the narrator does not want to take pills because he is stronger and no longer needs them.  The music has almost a tropical, world beat flavor to it.  It is one of my favorite cuts on the record.  The B side consists entirely of "Bro's" which is over 12 minutes long.  It also has a world music feel to it and I really dig the soaring vocal on it.  It is a gorgeous song, the sound is so rich and so multi-textured.  I have a hard time deciphering all the words on it but he seems to be telling his friends that he needs his space and has matured beyond them but that he still cares for them.  Side C opens with "Good Girl" which is a frenzied Indian music influenced song.  The vocal is so distorted that I can't understand the words at all, I had to look them up on the internet to figure them out.  I'm not sure what it means but it sounds like he is all stressed out and some girl helps him feel better.  I think it is the most extreme song on the album, my kid overheard me listening to it and asked me if a car alarm was going off outside, ha-ha.  It segues directly into "Carrots" which returns to the familiar Brian Wilson inspired style that is typical of most of the album to deliver a cutting putdown to critics.  The extreme invective in the lyrics contrasts with the beauty of the music.  Side D begins with "I'm Not" which is a stunningly beautiful song.  Again I couldn't figure out the song until I looked up the lyrics on the internet.  It seems to be about impending fatherhood.  There is also a French song running through it as well.  "Search For Delicious" is perhaps the most abstract song on the album.  A collection of bird noises, sound effects and loops accompanying a hypnotic drone, I didn't even realize it had lyrics until I saw them posted on the internet.  It reminds me a bit of early 1970s Pink Floyd only better.  The album ends with one of the most conventional songs on the album, "Ponytail" although with Panda Bear, conventional is a relative term, this still sounds pretty out there compared to commercial indie rock.  It is a short song about spiritual growth and like most of the music on this album, it is very pleasurable to listen to.  This album is one of my favorite albums of the past decade.  It manages to synthesize creative influences from past pop music and create something that is both progressive and beautiful.  I usually find contemporary electronic music to be more interesting than fun, but this record is both mentally stimulating and enjoyable to listen to.  Recommended to people whose favorite Beach Boys album is "Smile."

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