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Panda Bear's "Tomboy"

By Jacob Jones
On April 20, 2011

As I pressed play to hear the highly anticipated and hyped Panda Bear LP, Tomboy, it became almost intimidating in what to expect. Will Panda Bear's LP live up to the hype surrounding it? Will it supersede his critically acclaimed previous LP, Person Pitch? Upon listening to Tomboy the answer was extremely hard to define, primarily because it came off as a love-it-or-hate-it album to me.

Now, I don't mean to say that I didn't enjoy the album because there are several great moments in Tomboy. Panda Bear, the widely acclaimed member of Animal Collective, is known for his ability to create complicated rhythms that defy convention, yet sound effortless to the listener. The controversially termed "chill-wave" genre (a type of drone/electronic mixed with nostalgic textures and effects) is said to be on its last legs, and it's safe to say that this album is a referendum to the relevance of the style.

If you're down with the drone sound, and can really get into the texture and feel of the album, then tracks such as "Long Night at the Jetty" and "Surfers Hymn" offer in-depth atmospheres and harmonies that can carry you off into the world Panda Bear creates for you, the listener. The reverb-soaked and monotone vocals really stand out as the focal point of the album, and this is where the controversy may be found.

Throughout the listen, the vocals can at times be in great harmony with the fluctuating synths, reverb and tangy guitar rhythms that are reminiscent of a beach boy's style. At other times, the vocals can stand out and almost sound abrasive to the ear. I think this can especially be noticed in the song "Slow Motion"; however this facet is still present in and out of other tracks.

Tomboy is certainly an album that can't be fully appreciated in one listen due to the depth of many of the tracks with effects that zoom by before you notice and constantly change their melodies throughout the album. This is especially prevalent in tracks like "Alsatian Dream," and to a certain extent, "Tomboy", which offer a dynamic sound that can take a couple of listens to fully grasp it. The repetitiveness of some of the tracks may be seen as a drawback; however, this is an intentional aspect to the music given the heavy drone influence, along with the fact that there are, often times, many things going in the music. But most of the tracks offer a complete sound that the listener can really dive into and get lost in a chill and "droney" daze.

This album is widely open to interpretation by each respective listener. It doesn't tell you how to feel about any of the tracks; since there is almost a lack of definition in many of the songs, the listener could even view each track as a blank canvas, painted on by his or her imagination.

While this a plus for many, (given the sensory onslaught of much of today's popular music), I can't blame people for not finding the sound appealing. However, if you're in the market for something new that isn't your conventional sound then I implore you to check out Tomboy.

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