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.