Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Paw Tracks
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Rock, Acid Folk
Noah Lennox makes music swathed in so much synth noise, ambient voices and ricocheting stereophonic WTFs, it can feel like you're swept into a tidal wave of bong water. But life can feel that way too. The rapturous beauty on the Animal Collective singer's fourth solo disc is built on basic stuff: Lennox's choirboy tenor – multiplied into billowing harmonies – and sweet melodies.
Before the release of Noah Lennox's transcendent third solo album, Person Pitch, he was simply a cult hero, beloved by the offbeat underground; he had not yet painted his masterpiece. The 2007 release crowned Panda Bear as "next," and foreshadowed not only Animal Collective's sensational Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009, but also the creative direction of the subsequent indie generation. As of July 2010, Lennox began throwing coals on his now substantial following, fueling the desire for a forth full-length.
While at Boston University, Noah Lennox decided to study religion because he was interested in “the concept of God.” The second Panda Bear record, Young Prayer, was a deeply personal collection of bare acoustic songs, made as a gift to Lennox’s terminal father. Exploring the immediacy of death and the strength of familial bond, Prayer was full of big questions and bigger wishes; the birth of a key transition that continued with Panda Bear’s breakthrough, Person Pitch. Tomboy is the vivid sound of Lennox reemerging at the other end of this journey.
So, it was a long wait. There’s no getting around that. As soon as Animal Collective finished touring their masterpiece of an album Merriweather Post Pavilion, rumors of another Panda Bear solo album began to surface. That was roughly December of 2009. Now, over a year later, we have it. Was it ….
Noah Lennox's Panda Bear project has always been about making "difficult" music scan as almost radio-friendly, to translate experimental moves to a broad audience with little interest in such things. It's a strategy he learned, at least in part, from sonic forebears like Arthur Russell and Brian Wilson, along with the avant-techno types he reveres. Like those disparate influences, Lennox has used potentially off-putting compositional and textural ideas to craft some of the most inviting music of his era.
Review Summary: I believe it was the philosopher Tare who told us: "Feeling is good." I know what you, omnipresent imagined counterpoint, might be thinking: “Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, Panda Bear.” But what if it was? So Tomboy wishes. Tomboy is a homogenous record, its eleven songs a steady mix of jagged, attacking guitars and that one damn sunshine and rainbows harmony. But it is a dynamic record as well, alive, moving, intimate.
The fourth solo album as Panda Bear by Animal Collective's Noah Lennox is an amazingly immersive listen. You just have to get your head around all the contradictions. The disc manages to be densely layered and lush and still nakedly minimal. It's packed with sweet, memorable melodies, but rarely allows any of them to emerge as a traditional hook or chorus.
I suppose Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear aka the coolest one from Animal Collective probably has a perfectly normal singing voice that he can break out, should the need require. But in my head, I like to imagine a little Panda, a Panda Cub, singing at school or church or some family do and just drowning out everything else with that high, distant, saintly honk of a voice, his classmates/congregation/family gawping in befuddlement as this radiantly weird sound pours out. And I know, I know, all he's really doing is a Beach Boys impression fed through some sort of FX box, but there is something primal and innocent and strangely inhuman about our Panda’s voice that I think accounts for much of his appeal.
With its dense layers of music and found sounds, Panda Bear's Person Pitch became an indie rock standard-bearer almost immediately after its release. Trying to top it would be a daunting task, and on Tomboy, Noah Lennox doesn’t attempt it. Instead, he strips away the samples that made Person Pitch so hallucinatory and focuses on guitars, drums, and emotive melodies.
Anote of caution: listen to Tomboy for the first time after a frazzling day and it might just give you a migraine. Noah Lennox's follow-up to his rapturous 2007 album Person Pitch is as demanding and nerve-needling as a hungry, tired three-year-old clamouring for attention. Take the title track: it's relentlessly circuitous, Lennox's droning vocal bearing down on an aggressively downbeat keyboard melody, which itself presses against an urgent guitar line doctored to sound like a sheet of metal being shaken.
Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear of blog-beloved avant-rockers Animal Collective, isn’t kidding when he titles a cut from his second solo disc ”Drone.” Tomboy stretches out Beach Boys-style pop into a kind of slo-mo sound installation. The woozy, reverb-rich result makes for great headphone swimming (also: infant appeasement!), but Lennox is at his best with a groove to submerge; on ”Afterburner,” dude excellently imagines a disco 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Panda Bear, the solo project of Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, earned enough critical praise for his 2007 album, Person Pitch, to garner a significant spike in attention. In spite of the steadily building hype, he has stuck with his vision. In 2010 he performed new material to a festival crowd. Needless to say, the reactions were wildly mixed.
Over the past four years, few solo acts have been dissected and discussed as much as Panda Bear. After 2007’s Person Pitch unexpectedly brought this Animal Collective side project into the spotlight, Panda Bear mastermind Noah Lennox has had his every musical move scrutinized as the world waited for his next avant-garde sampling masterpiece. After four years of very little solo activity, he returns with Tomboy — an effort that scales back on many of the infectious samples that made his third LP such an appealing record, instead inviting us into his own lush ambient-pop landscapes.
Less swampy, more cosmic — that’s perhaps the easiest way to describe the difference between Panda Bear’s universally acclaimed 2007 album Person Pitch and this year’s anticipated outing Tomboy. Whereas the earlier album crafted an entire hipster biosystem out of chanting bros, murky drums, and hoot owls, the new release stands out dry and bare, spinning slightly above the damp ground in its own glittery orbit. Indeed, playing the new album is sort of like watching Yoda lift the X-Wing fighter out of the alien bayou on Dagobah; its still dripping with mud and moss, but it’s sleek, sharp, and ready, it seems, for take-off.
Every new single, EP, or record from ambient-pop mastermind Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) or his Animal Collective colleagues has the unfortunate challenge of fighting off Merriweather Post Pavilion‘s now-colossal psych-folk legacy. To add to that pressure, Lennox also has the daunting task of attempting to outshine his excellent 2007 effort, Person Pitch, a near-perfect amalgamation of flickering atmospherics, disparate sampling, and hypnotic repetition.
If there’s any record you should pay for as an assurance of audio quality, Tomboy by Panda Bear of the Animal Collective is it. It’s a beautiful-sounding record, brimming with subtleties that could get lost in a listless digital transfer. You wouldn’t want that. Without those subtleties, Tomboy, the most rarefied album in recent memory, would very nearly cease to exist.
Review Summary: The question really is, then, what feelings are we exactly trying to feel and why?Tomboy doesn’t speak loud enough for us to hear it. It hums, rather; it mumbles. It actually can't speak. It posits a different mood than that of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Panda Bear’s 2007 landmark release, the welcoming and joyous Person Pitch.
At this point in his career, Noah Lennox could release an album of sampled panda mating sounds, and it’s a fair bet that we’d still be fawning over each leaked track and waiting in breathless anticipation for the completed work. Ever since the title track from Tomboy made its vinyl and digital debuts last July, it seems that just about any indie hipster website or blog with a live stream has posted no fewer than two of the album’s four(!) singles, as well as a smattering of demo-caliber Tomboy outtakes. In the process, Lennox – pseudonym, Panda Bear – has amassed a bedazzled level of critical adoration that few, except perhaps Sufjan Stevens in his post-Illinois era, could comprehend.
PAUL SIMON “So Beautiful or So What”. (Hear Music/Concord).
Another chilled-out triumph of a solo set from the Animal Collective member. Mike Diver 2011 The world Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, inhabits has changed remarkably since the release of his previous solo LP, Person Pitch. Back then, in 2007, Animal Collective – the band he co-founded in 1999 – were still a cult concern, their Strawberry Jam album about to collect a clutch of critical acclaim but make barely a dent upon the mainstream.
Tomboy's an ambitious work that finds its power and grandiosity in the slightest moments – an album that demands headphones, yet equally compels to crank the stereo. Like the intricate raves that have come to characterize Animal Collective's jams, Noah Lennox's fourth solo album thrives on nuances. Delivering a lesser follow-up to 2007 stunner Person Pitch, the cut chemist continues torquing Brian Wilson into the Digital Age, first and foremost on the harmony-licked loops of opener "You Can Count On Me" and "Surfer's Hymn.