Album review: Panda Bear's 'Tomboy'
Noah Lennox’s music as Panda Bear does two opposite things at once. The easier part, given today’s laptop-centric sampling technology, is to create looping, ephemeral noise music that doesn’t feel as if it’s made with recognizable instruments. The second, and harder part, is writing harmony-limned vocal melodies that call back to some of the oldest stuff in music — church choirs, crooners and Lennox’s aesthetic north star, Brian Wilson.
“Tomboy,” his first solo record since his band Animal Collective became major-theater-fillers with 2009’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” is his most successful attempt to reconcile those two impulses. It’s the weirdest thing Lennox has put his name on, yet also one of the most inviting and eerily powerful.
Songs such as the single “Slow Motion” and “Drone” play off the androgyny of the title — they’re built on distortion-riddled drones and spiky bits of static, but Lennox’s heavily reverbed and lyrically indecipherable vocals lend an opiated sweetness. “Last Night at the Jetty” uses an icy drum machine in service of girl-group pop; “Afterburner” nods at German techno while tripping up any feet that try to dance to it. In the end, Lennox’s dueling ambitions leave “Tomboy” in a singular place — a strange, almost devotional record to get lost in.
Three stars (Out of four)
— August Brown