Saturday, December 11, 2010

Panda Bear- Tomboy & You Can Count On Me singles

It seems certain that Panda Bear's much-delayed Tomboy can only be a disappointment, especially to those who are expecting another Person Pitch. Judging by bootlegs of live shows from over the course of 2010, as well as the so-far-released singles, it's going to be a much different beast, full of darker, shorter songs based on guitars and electronics as the main instruments instead of samplers. As a huge fan of Person Pitch, it's hard for me to listen to Panda Bear's newer music and not wish for more versions of 'Take Pills' and 'Good Girl/Carrots.' But since he has continually pushed back the release of Tomboy—in fact, he's not done recording/mixing it yet—I've had more and more time to accept the new direction.

The Tomboy single was the first officially released taste of the album, and neither it nor its b-side, 'Slow Motion', seem like obvious songs for the purpose of introducing the album. However, listening more closely to 'Tomboy' reveals what Panda Bear was getting on about when he said the album would be more guitar based, though the guitar here is employed more as a vocal foil than anything else. There's something Radiohead-esque about its sound and melodic/rhythmic use here; furthermore, the minimalist beats and indistinct background sounds also remind me of that British band's Kid A era music. Panda Bear's vocals are as rich and reverb drenched as ever but lack the Beach Boys/angelic choir effects he used on all of Person Pitch. Aforementioned b-side 'Slow Motion', meanwhile, sticks a little closer to the Person Pitch sound, with a looping beat, repeated sound effects/speech samples, and Panda Bear's honeyed vocals. A good start, all told, but hardly a home run.

Second single You Can Count On Me reveals a much more abstract style. With heavy, vocally emphasized beats and a droning sound, Panda Bear often used this song as a set closer during his 2010 performances. There's something definitive and confident sounding about it. Despite its paucity of sonic elements, it sounds anthemic and full. Unfortunately, he's retreated from the more comprehensible vocal delivery of Animal Collective's last couple releases, so the lyrics are hard to discern. The same goes for 'Alsatian Darn', whose title I'm convinced is a reference to a Tom Goes To The Mayor episode wherein Tom says “darn” instead of “dam.” Anyway, there's a reason this song will (I assume) be relegated to b-side status and won't be included on the album: it's uninspired and half-finished feeling. Lacking a satisfying hook and with an out-of-character amount of lyrics that don't register, it plods along for almost exactly twice as long as 'You Can Count On Me' but is nowhere near as good.

The next single, Last Night At The Jetty, is due to be released digitally in a few days. I can only hope that it restores some of my faith in Panda Bear as a solo artist. Don't mistake what I mean there; I don't think either Tomboy or You Can Count On Me are bad singles. It's more that they're underwhelming, and when combined with the less-then-stellar Down There by Avey Tare, represent a cooling trend on my enthusiasm for the up-til-now impeccable stable of Animal Collective and related side/solo project releases. More importantly, the Tomboy album is now my biggest question mark for 2011: will it still turn out to be great, or will it be one of the biggest disappointments of the year? For now, know that the singles are worth checking out, though I sure wouldn't break the bank for the limited edition vinyl releases.

4 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5 (Combined score)

No comments: