Artist: Panda Bear
In 2009, Animal Collective released their breakthrough opus "Merriweather Post Pavillion." Whereas before the band had always focused on burying the modern day pop song beneath a swarm of tribal drums and exotic squeaks and squawks, "Merriweather...", although clinging to the base sound, was their most accessible album to date. Whereas "Merriweather..." often relied on abstract simplicity, the music of founding member Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, has always rooted itself firmly in the bizarre, conjuring the soundscapes and effects that re-enforce the idea that Lennox wants to make it harder for the listener.
With this notion of "artistic dexterity" in mind, Panda Bear's 4th "Tomboy" wants to set itself up as one of the most visionary albums of recent times, but- Shock! Horror!- it's actually the simpler moments here that have the most impact. "Slow Motion" is a festival of reverberating synths and a clicking beat and trademark Lennox harmonies, whilst lead-off single "Last Night at the Jetty" contains easily the best melody heard from one of the AC since "My Girls." There are times though when Lennox takes "artistic dexterity" too far. The songs flutter by prettily, but as songs like "Surfer's Hymn" and "Friendship Bracelet" prove, there is occasionally too much going on, and it's easy to get lost in the confusing swirls and beeps.
So Panda Bear's "Tomboy" is visionary in a way. It's a good reminder that Lennox is one of the most interesting musicians out there at the moment, but also an encouraging reminder that below the surface, extraordinary and wondrous things are still holding field.