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Panda Bear Tomboy Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Another chilled-out triumph of a solo set from the Animal Collective member.

Mike Diver 2011

The world Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, inhabits has changed remarkably since the release of his previous solo LP, Person Pitch. Back then, in 2007, Animal Collective – the band he co-founded in 1999 – were still a cult concern, their Strawberry Jam album about to collect a clutch of critical acclaim but make barely a dent upon the mainstream. It, alongside Person Pitch (album of the year on Pitchfork), did a good job of cleaning up the year-end plaudits. But it wasn’t until 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion that the Baltimore-born outfit truly connected with a wider audience, their eighth studio set breaking the Billboard top 20 and reaching the dizzy heights of 26 on this side of the pond.

But the musical landscape Lennox strides so confidently across really hasn’t evolved all that much – Tomboy, solo long-player number four, builds on the summery vibes of its predecessor but doesn’t go so far as to truly break virgin ground. Titles like Slow Motion, Surfer’s Hymn and Drone are perfectly indicative of the content here, and will be pleasingly familiar to followers (old and new) of Lennox’s sublime drift-scapes. From Beach Boys melodies to mellifluous vocals which sink and simmer in a mix so luxurious to bathe in it would be heavenly, it’s full of prerequisites that point the way towards an experience comparably pleasant to that provided by Person Pitch.

Where Tomboy differs is in its dividing lines – rather than seven tracks with a couple of 12-minute epics, here Lennox lays out a sequence of 11 shorter, standalone arrangements, less focus on a single-sit-down listen and one eye, certainly, on the cherry-picking nature of today’s downloading audience. Not that this offering is without its longer moments of full-body immersion: Friendship Bracelet is a stunning six-minute shimmer which entices with warm vocals atop chirruping tropical percussion, and the following Afterburner ups the tempo to New Order (circa Technique) levels, 80s synths pulsing away at the core of a track peppered liberally with busy beats.

Drone does just that, magically, Lennox stretching lazy vocals across hums and whirs which sound like one of those teenybopper hits slowed down into something approaching a celestial wonder on YouTube. Slow Motion sloshes about as if its maker’s toes are dipped in a crystal-clear sea; and Last Night at the Jetty throbs delicately with a lovely sigh in its lyrical step. And while much here can be summarised as more of the same, when Lennox’s natural quality control operates at such an admirable standard, that’s precisely why Tomboy is such a chilled-out triumph.

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