Indy Rock Reveiws::: Panda Bear - Tomboy/Slow Motion 7"
I remember reading an interview with Panda Bear post-Person Pitch where he said that the experience of meticulously forging an album of that caliber from such an immense pool of samples was so taxing that he couldn't picture himself being in a place to make another one anytime soon. One needn't do more than simply take a gander at the tracklist of the all-Avey, all-the-time ("Loch Raven" as exception) Feels to see how Panda's hands were tied making his solo record, the majority of which was released through a series of seven-inches starting in '05 and leading up to the full-length release.
Three years later, Panda's back at the ole grind, prepping the follow-up Tomboy and once again drumming up anticipation through a series of advance singles. In these heady Independent Rock Music times, where bands like jj and Los Campesinos! are issuing presumably shitty sophomore efforts just months after their shitty, breakthrough dealbreakers were released, three years is an even longer time in music years than it had been previously. Still, with Panda's contributions to Animal Collective becoming more and more prominent and individualized, culminating in the two most popular Merriweather singles both being Panda-penned, my impression was that he was effectively parlaying the fact that Person Pitch was more beloved than any AC release into a more centrally creative role within the band. The McCartney (optimistic, more popular) to Tare's Lennon, If U Will. So I'm honestly a bit surprised that we are just a few months away from the release (and probably much closer to the leak) of Panda's fourth solo LP, and hopefully his second one that I actually like.
Anyone reading this is likely well acquainted with how Panda has described Tomboy-- guitar-based, a departure from sampling inspired by the likes of Kurt Cobain and Jack White. For those keeping score at home, that's supposed to come off as really intriguing because you see, Cobain and White play(ed) big distorted rock guitar and are less-than-adored by hipsters, while Animal Collective aren't a rock band, but do make hipsters go apeshit. In fact, in a Feels-era interview, the AnCoBros ("Bro's?") claim they never have and never will use distorted guitars even though they like how other bands use them, because it just ain't they steez. I've never heard them explain "Cuckoo Cuckoo." Anywho, the live bootlegs from January sounded promising enough, and, perhaps thankfully, very much Panda Bear.
Listening to this first single, featuring the album's title track backed with a song called "Slow Motion," which may or may not make the LP, I was immediately disheartened to realize that "Tomboy" was in fact "Track 02" from my boot, one of my least favorite tracks. I think a lot of people hear/read "guitar-based" and immediately think Feels here, which is a fundamental mistake because Panda of course does not play guitar on that record. In actuality, the guitars on "Tomboy" share little in common with the lushly warm and watery alt-tuning drones employed by Avey and Deakin. Here, the guitars are tinny and small, even vaguely 8-bit sounding. Perversely enough, it almost sounds like Panda was taking cues from the very chillwave artists who are so heavily indebted to Person Pitch. But whereas chillwave songs tend to be built around a simple but catchy central hook, and shrouded in just enough fuzz to fill out the mix, "Tomboy" is a lightweight dirge, backed by slight percussion and ultimately too glaringly lean. Some mildly appealing melodic elements emerge with repeated listens, but the song rings ultimately, like much of the work of notorious Panda wannabe El Guincho, as a failed hypnosis attempt.
"Slow Motion" corrects the misstep of using a metronome-level backbeat, here employing a robust hip hop sample. The guitars are more heavily processed, thus sounding less like guitars, as the song floats through subtly-varying chanted sections, the penultimate ("It's how we show what counts.") being the catchiest. Still, if this song were but another section in "Good Girl/Carrots," it would be easily the least memorable. Which isn't to say it's bad-- neither of these songs are bad, per se, they are just shockingly underwhelming when coming from a member of a band who these days seemingly can do no wrong. And while if the bootlegs are any indicator, there is definitely enough material -- "Surfer's Hymn, "Drone," et al -- to yield an adequate album, this first single, intended as a teaser, serves mostly as a buzzkill.