Album Review: Panda Bear – ‘Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper’

Many people won’t have heard of Panda Bear, but those who have will know that he’s one of the most experimental musicians of recent years. From his work on Daft Punk’s brilliant Random Access Memories, to his main body of work with Animal Collective, Panda Bear (real name Noah Lennox) favours using repetition to create his most interesting music, with great focus on lyrics that remain indecipherable until further listens.

[quote]Panda Bear creates an album that is reasonably difficult to access without exposure to his other more accessible work.[/quote]

As is the case with his new album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, in which he never seems to want you to hear his brilliance by constantly covering it up with unnecessary noise that will alienate some listeners. This style can be effective as seen with Mr Noah, the first single from the album and one of the stand out tracks. So much happens within the four minutes as a cacophony of sounds, including a dog’s whimper and an intermittent buzz, are heard before eventually culminating in an extraordinary end product that will stay in your brain for days. This has also been used to great effect in Boys Latin and despite its disorientating melody and continual pitch change, it will force you to crave subsequent listens to finally understand what he’s singing about.

The second half of the album is a more relaxed affair with Tropic of Cancer, a song with gorgeously sung lyrics concerning the death of his father, starting this change in tone. The song ebbs and flows with a sweet harp dominating the melody before being mixed with the sound of rolling waves, causing it to be the most out of place track on the album. But this is what makes it such a successful one as it acts as a divider, splitting the album between the hectic first half and a simpler second portion. Each track, although containing similar elements, is individually distinctive and performs by themselves, but when combined to form the rest of the album, an incredible piece of music is created that can be experienced upon new listens, leading to the uncovering of endless intricate detail.


Overall, Panda Bear creates an album that is reasonably difficult to access without exposure to his other more accessible work, such as his 2007 album Person Pitch, an album that focuses on sampling and a minimal addition of noise so that the listener can appreciate his musical genius. It bears more similarity to the 2012 Animal Collective album Centipede Hz than the more successful Merriweather Post Pavilion  and Person Pitch, yet is most definitely the funkiest set of music that he has produced. Once his sound and style is appreciated though, the true worth of the album can be achieved.


Best Tracks – Mr Noah, Boys Latin, Tropic of Cancer, Selfish Gene

Max Miller

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