Release Date: Jan 13, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
As Panda Bear, Animal Collective member Noah Lennox's solo work patiently evolved from early folk jumble to the transcendent, sample-based bliss of 2007's Person Pitch to the weighty, darker minimalism of 2011's Tomboy. With fifth album Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, Lennox offers up a collection of songs that bring together the best aspects of his intensely personal, slow-motion journey through sound, feeling sharper, more deliberate, and more positive than at any point prior. While Person Pitch's mesh of melody and texture was revelational, the stew of samples, reverb, and vocal layering could get a little fuzzy around the edges.
Make no mistake: neither critics, fans, followers or the group themselves seemed overly impressed with Animal Collective's last LP, 2012's Centipede Hz. The album promised a bold back-to-basics approach, but simply delivered the same old sounds found on Feels and Strawberry Jam before it. That's why Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) was nervous when he found himself falling back into old habits while preparing for his next solo endeavour as he toyed increasingly with the sampler he had all but done away with.
The great irony about bringing a new life into this world is you start worrying a lot more about death. Not just that of the family members you must provide for and protect, but your own, as well. Plain and simple, the first rule of parenting is: don’t die. When entrusted with the immense obligation of caring for a child, even the youngest of new parents become exceedingly conscious of their own mortality and survival instincts.
From the Greek myth of Sisyphus, to The Seventh Seal, to Wayne’s World 2, to Family Guy, few face the Grim Reaper and live to tell about it. And while there might be some literal mortality questioning coming from Noah Lennox, his fifth album as Panda Bear comes at the project’s own strange time. We are three years removed from his last endeavor, Tomboy, an album that managed to be both acclaimed by critics and considered a critical disappointment.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When you come face-to-face with death, what will you say? Will you freeze up or invite him in? When Noah Lennox met the Grim Reaper, they made music together. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is his fifth solo album and signifies a landmark moment in the music of Panda Bear, now at the peak of his powers, where does one go next? Lennox has stated himself that, "It's sort of marking change -- not necessarily an absolute death, but the ending of something, and hopefully the beginning of something else.
Noah Lennox is really good at making beautiful music, but you might be forgiven for forgetting this on occasion. Lennox's band, Animal Collective, has spent much of its discography (Merriweather Post Pavilion a notable exception) hiding Lennox's melodic gifts behind waves of atonal drone and challenging musicality—not necessarily a bad thing, in many instances, but it has the effect of making it a special thing to hear Lennox on his own with his Panda Bear project. .
Since the sparse, forest-folk ode to his late father on 2004's Young Prayer, Panda Bear has been the most intriguing voice in the Animal Collective crew. With that record's naked moans of loss, followed by the sample-littered Brian Wilsonisms of 2007's Person Pitch and the droney, amorphous dub of 2011's Tomboy, Panda Bear has continued to shift the aural contours of his records in a way that mirrors the always evolving sonic mayhem of Animal Collective itself. For his fourth solo album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, the musical wanderlust and playfulness of those three albums has settled into a comfortable, lived-in sphere.
Albums are by their very nature conceptual, but rarely do they so explicitly lay their cards on the table from the title downwards as Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (or PBVSGR as it shall henceforth be called). Both individually, and as a key component of Animal Collective, Noah Lennox has always positioned himself on the musical fringe, creating pop that melts into itself. Merriweather Post Pavilion was the first step out of the subgenre the Collective had created for themselves, moving into realms more experimental and electronic, and since then Lennox has found himself collaborating with the likes of Pantha du Prince, Zomby and most notably Daft Punk, pushing himself into territories new.
Panda Bear is dead, long live Panda Bear. The title of Noah Lennox’s fifth album, and some vague hints he’s given in interviews to promote it, suggests that he may be planning to retire his musical alter-ego and move onto pastures new. Of course, as any Tarot reader will tell you, death can also mean change, but there’s not too much on Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper which will startle long-term fans of the Animal Collective mainman.
After the mild reception for Animal Collective’s latest record, 2012’s Centipede Hz, and the unanimous appraisal of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Noah Lennox’s last two albums as Panda Bear, 2011’s Tomboy and the near-classic Person Pitch from 2007, it’s come to the point that the band’s fans anticipate Panda Bear records more fiercely than the group’s efforts. They have begun to identify Lennox as the primary creative soul of the group, and whether or not that’s accurate has become irrelevant in the hype for his newest album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Lennox has cultivated a reputation for quality that rivals that of his longtime band, and if he hasn’t eclipsed their popularity yet, it’s probably only a matter of time.
In a recent interview, Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox revealed that a Lisboan healer recently told him he could count on not one but three personal totem animals – the bear, the eagle and the wolf. On his fifth solo album away from Animal Collective, then, Lennox meets the grim reaper mob-handed, with his very own fierce menagerie in tow. It’s an album on which hurt dogs, ecstatic anxiety and unabashed prettiness loom large, the interplay making Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper Lennox’s most accessible solo offering thus far.
Panda Bear might be one faction of the notorious psychedelic gadabouts Animal Collective, but over the years he’s equally established himself as a solo artist. Over four albums Noah Lennox has bounded from bashed-up guitars to thick-hanging clouds of drone with the ease of a merry little toadstool-hopping Yoshi. His fifth solo effort ‘Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper’ guzzles down 90s hip-hop inspired drum programming, vocal auto-tune and cyclical loops.
With their pseudonyms, penchant for making interminable avant garde films and frequently oblique lyrics (“Can I sing and make change without crushing clams?”; “When I was young I thought fruit was an infinite thing”), US electronic psychedelicists Animal Collective are a band that invite differing interpretations. So it’s perhaps no surprise that people have set to the title of Collective member Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox’s fifth solo album with some gusto. Depending on what you read, it’s either an indication that Lennox has made a concept album about death along the lines of his 2004 album Young Prayer – inspired by his father’s terminal illness and recorded in the room where he died – or is thinking about retiring the Panda Bear name altogether.
The main thing that’s changed in the four years since Tomboy, the last solo album from Animal Collective co-frontman Noah Lennox, is the anticipation for the next one. And so, with a fanfare of limited pressings and a sleeve that makes the tie-dye trademark of the mid-00s a mere memory, … Grim Reaper steps up. Any other stylistic shifts, though plentiful, get lost in Lennox’s wonderful miasma.
Though it’s not always obvious, the Grim Reaper has been hanging behind Panda Bear and his Animal Collective compatriots for years. The hood and scythe were always more distinct in the murky production and gritty howls of Avey Tare than in Noah Lennox’s beautiful harmonies and sorbet psychedelia, but even the tender, acoustic Young Prayer has its darkness — the album was written as a means to cheer up his father, who was dying of brain cancer. Lennox takes a more explicit look at death on his new LP, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper.
If the notoriously sunny Noah Lennox has become obsessed with death, then maybe we need to reconsider our relationship to the great beyond. Lennox (a.k.a. Panda Bear) is best known as a founding member of Animal Collective, whose discography represents some of the very best experimental pop of the new millenium. Panda Bear's fifth solo album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, takes the unease and claustrophobia of Animal Collective's most recent album, Centipede Hz, and strains it through a cheesecloth of wobbly dub and warped psychedelia.
The staggering success of Panda Bear, Noah Lennox’s solo vehicle that channels his wildly cerebral introversions, can be attributed to a play on creativity that perfectly suited its time. The musical landscape shifted when solo producers took it upon themselves to record through their own means, and thus, has since provoked a tidal wave of liberation that is now almost overwhelming. One could say that the expectation that surrounds a new Panda Bear record easily surpasses that of his tenure with Animal Collective, but only because there’s still an air of mystery about Lennox’s painstakingly labored craft.
For his fifth album as Panda Bear, Noah Lennox wanted to translate the “common” into the “impossible,” assembling Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper out of boilerplate sample kits. But what scans as most common about Lennox's latest isn't the aggregation of sounds, which are neither as everyday and earthbound as those of 2007's kaleidoscopic Person Pitch, nor as alienating as the effects-pedal drones of 2011's Tomboy; it's the fact that with their foregrounded backbeats, generous hooks, and relative brevity, Grim Reaper's songs represent the closest Lennox has come to straightforward pop. This is noteworthy, because neither Lennox's nor his main band Animal Collective's approach to pop music has ever been “straightforward.
“Are you mad?” No, I’m not mad, and I’m not really disappointed either. The above score isn’t meant to read unfairly (though droves of Animal Collective fans will think so. I know how this works — I’ve been on the same forum with them for going on nine years). I have to partially address them, as well as my longtime-crush Mr.
Out with the old? Not quite yet. Before the year fully gears up, this Playlist lingers over some albums from 2014 that earned some belated notice — and welcomes some 2015 albums that defy the January doldrums. Jazmine Sullivan’s third studio album, “Reality Show” (RCA), to be released this ….
If the title of Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is meant to hint at the demise of Noah Lennox’s musical alter ego, the album content suggests the Animal Collective percussionist would retire the solo project satisfied with the sonic identity he created for it. Containing both the dense sound collages of Panda Bear’s acclaimed Person Pitch (2007) and the windswept minimalism of Tomboy (2011), the album explores new ground by incorporating Daft Punk influences and featuring prominent, break-focused drum programming—but, for the most part, isn’t too interested in taking on big challenges. Rather, Lennox distills the results of his electro-psychedelic experiments into simpler elements that pair well with (relatively) straightforward melodies and throwback hip-hop techniques.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > Noah Lennox, the Lisbon-based Animal Collective member who records expansive psychedelic pop as Panda Bear, sometimes get slapped with tags like “freak folk. ” This only illustrates how open to interpretation the idea of folk music is in the twenty-first century, since Panda Bear would be classified under most rubrics as an electronic musician. His tracks are almost entirely composed of loops and multi-track trompe l’oeil, and a DJ’s sense of repetitive structure, dynamics, and the art of the subtle shift is essential to the effect of his songs, which lull the listener into states of bliss and comfort like a successful club cut (the great joke of his ecstatic Daft Punk collaboration “Doin’ It Right” is that it sounds like any other Panda Bear song run through a simple vocoder effect).
As the title implies, it’s about death. So why does Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper frequently sound so serene? Noah Lennox, Animal Collective founder and prolific solo artist, says he picked it as a nod to those old Jamaican dub and reggae collaborations – a studio meeting with the cowled one himself. But if those records were often huffed up on fire and brimstone, living in fear of Babylon, …The Grim Reaper reminds us that Animal Collective have always had a rather more easy relationship with the macabre; think the goo-splattered B-movie horror of ODDSAC, or the bristly outer-space weirdness of Centipede HZ.
Every now and again, there’s an album that strikes out into unfamiliar territories and returns with unimagineble riches. Panda Bear’s Person Pitch (2007) was one of those. Imagine The Beach Boys cooing celestially on the ocean floor (yes, yet another futile attempt to capture the head-spinning splendour of the album’s sublime soup of sound) and you’re not that far off.
One of the reasons both Animal Collective fans and casual followers of indie music love Panda Bear, the solo project of AC's Noah Lennox, is that the guy can truly sing. And not only can he sing on key and confidently carry a melody - a rarity in the experimental field - but he can also transform his voice from possessed choir boy to lilting crooner in a single line. With Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper (aka PBVSGR), Lennox's fifth solo album, his vocals are once again shape-shifting.