Panda Bear – Tomboy

Rating: ★★★½ ·

If you had just entered into the alternative side of the music scene recently, and knew nothing of a little band called Animal Collective, there is still a great chance that Panda Bear would have crossed your path sooner or later. Despite being a rational fan of Animal Collective, I wanted to hate this record so bad. Something about how much it was hyped before its release just sort of irked me. However, despite my preconceived notions that had nothing to do with the actual music, I was able to overcome the intimidating enigma surrounding Tomboy to get to the electro- pop that Noah Lennox has down pat.

The first song “You Can Count On Me,” serves as a transition of worlds for the listener. With its echo-y and distorted vocals, the repetition hazes you to a certain level of detachment, so that you are in the right place mentally to enjoy the album. Thankfully, it doesn’t go on for too long, and soon you are already on “Tomboy,” the title track. Laden with buzz and grimy electronic elements, the repetitive nature of the first song is broken with the natural qualities of the second. Despite that being paradoxical, it still rings true; somehow, the inorganic elements of this sound work together so that the gravelly echoes feel more like tangible back up singers.

It is in this little detail that Panda Bear wins me over. While other kinds of electronic music seem to fall flat in their lack of empathetic qualities, Lennox has managed to fuse the impersonal to deeply reaching, all in one stroke. For instance, “Slow Motion,” feels bitter in its tone, but evolves into pocket of enticing and almost sassy sounding jams. Continuing this chunk of satisfying songs comes “Surfer’s Hymn,” which sounds just like the title describes: tropical. On this number, the background noises transition to sound like the rushing tide pushing back and forth.

The one place where this album falls short is in its overall repetition. While I understand the intentional usage on the first track, it comes up a bit too prevalently throughout Tomboy: at the end of “Slow Motion” and during “Last Night at the Jetty” (which bears similarity to “My Girls”). Too much of the same thing over and over again brings down this effort to the level of mediocrity that other bands of this genre have established. It is a good thing that this only happens a few times.

Overall, it’s about as good as you are going to get for this kind of artificiality. If someone can make emotionally reaching and evoking music from electronic machines, that is a feat in itself and should be appreciated and enjoyed.

Atlas Sound – Logos

walkabout-cover

Rating: ★★ · · ·

I must preface this review by stating that I have never been a fan of the work of Bradford Cox.  I realize that this is heresy in today’s indie scene, but I really just have a difficult time giving a shit when there is so much more quality music to which to listen.  Now I’m not saying the man isn’t talented, he is.  His work with Deerhunter is listenable, but I feel like I have heard it all before, and better. I have listened to Deerhunter’s entire catalog and all I am left thinking “Man, this would be great, if My Bloody Valentine had never existed.” Then I go and listen to My Bloody Valentine instead.

So with the release of Bradford Cox’s solo project, Atlas Sound, new album, Logos (Kranky), I approached it with trepidation. Surely the My Bloody Valentine influences would be stripped from the sound and I would finally be able to see what Bradford Cox could really bring to the table creatively.  Plus there were numerous high profile guest appearances, most notably Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab and Noah Lennox of Animal Collective, which warranted, at least, a cursory listen.

You know what? On the first listen of Logos, with the lack of My Bloody Valentine influences, it tricked me into actually liking this record.  I wanted to listen to again. It was light and airy. There was room to move around in it rather than the oppressive wall of sound that is a Deerhunter album. 

But on subsequent listens this album felt familiar for all the wrong reasons.  I know that artists rely on their influences. It’s what makes them who they are.  But there is a huge difference between being influenced by an artist and mimicking.  Bradford Cox continues to come off as an imitator, a highly talented one, but an imitator, nonetheless. While what he is releasing is good, it feels like he has yet to find a voice of his own. 

The majority of Logos sounds exactly like Joan of Arc b-sides and not awesome How Memory Works b-sides, but shitty Live in Chicago, 1999 b-sides.  When joined with Lennox (Walkabout) or Sadier (Quick Canal), we have the highest points of the album, but ultimately the songs sound like the sum of their guest musician’s full time bands.

I hope Bradford Cox finds an original voice soon, because people will soon tire of a band that continually pull too liberally from way more interesting sources.

Atlas Sound will be playing at Fun Fun Fun Fest on the Orange Stage this Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Walkabout-w_-Noah-Lennox.mp3]

Download: Atlas Sound – Walkabout (w/ Noah Lennox) [MP3]

FT5: Collaborations

0918top5coverSolid collaborations seem to come around only once in a blue moon. On the other hand a FT5 of horrible partnerships could go on for 52 weeks straight without repeat. Eminem and Elton John come to mind, Bowie and Crosby creeping me out, and We Are the World as the gold standard of awesomely bad group efforts. Apart from these, there are plenty out there that have me wishing I had never heard them. Fear not, music lovers follow the jump to read about the best collaborations that won’t make you want to hang yourself; in fact, you might enjoy them.
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