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New Music: Panda Bear

By Liam Harrison, January 29 2015 —

Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, is a man whose life revolves around family. His solo album, Person Pitch, filtered his move to Lisbon and his relationship with his brother through a sunny, sample-heavy lens. His follow-up, Tomboy, featured murky compositions focused on his paranoia of one day not being able to provide for his family.

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a departure from the past. The album deals with overcoming the fear of death. Lennox’s treatment of dark subject matter marks an artistic triumph in his career.

Grim Reaper has Lennox’s taste for early ’90s hip hop all over it. Booming bass drums and powering high-hats define “Crosswords.” The relatively uninspired melody on “Boys Latin” is augmented with engaging vocal atmospherics and pulsing, bubbling synths, reminiscent of the Dust Brothers.

The gorgeous “Tropic of Cancer” is a career highlight. It’s a melodic, Tchaikovsky-sampling attempt to sympathize with the cancer that took Lennox’s father’s life. This song, along with “Lonely Wanderer,” exhibits the fragile yet assured tenor of Lennox’s voice as it glides along droning ambient sounds and luscious piano.

In “Selfish Gene” he covers familiar territory in a flowing ballad devoted to the need for family. Lastly, “Acid Wash” is a triumphant take-off (it features jet-engine sounds) and a jubilant reaction to defeating his demons. Grim Reaper is an interesting and compelling ride that’s worth taking.



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