Posted on December 30th, 2014 (12:00 pm) by Jesse Clark

Panda Bear, perhaps known just as well as one of the members of the critically-acclaimed Animal Collective, is releasing his fifth studio album fittingly titled Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. The formidable record takes on many characteristics which are never determined to be good or evil. He contrasts the ugly with the angelic and juxtaposes the calm and serene with the chaotic. From start to finish, the record keeps you on your toes, refusing to give itself away easily without a little bit of analysis.

The “Sequential Circuits” opener creates the psychedelic feel now synonymous with Panda Bear’s music. He crafts harmonies as pure as the Beach Boys and crunchy synth effects reminiscent of the Talking Heads. “Mr Noah” is like listening to the nightmares of a meth addict schizophrenic. The music is so convoluted, but in a harsh, grimy, almost slick way. You have to love it when someone can make a song with such an unflattering sound one of the coolest tracks on the album just through melody alone.

“Crosswords” is more accessible and has more of that Talking Heads sound brought on by the extreme detail in its composition. There are hidden synths and syncopated beats around every corner, while the melody becomes one of the more light-hearted aspects of the album. “Come To Your Senses” has elements of trip-hop, giving off a hazy cosmic vibe that lets us really sink into the music.

When the harp begins to play on “Tropic of Cancer,” we are instantly reminded of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home.” The song is like Panda Bear’s take on doo-wop, as his voice floats around like a misty fog. It’s one of the more sentimental songs on the album, like his equivalent to Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.” We take a quick jump into the futuristic '80s with the space-aged “Principe Real” and its glittered synth in all its glory. “Selfish Gene” is the closest we will ever get to a reinvention of the Beach Boys in the golden years. Panda Bear comes up with a melody that has never sounded more like a Brian Wilson composition than something actually written by Brian Wilson. “Acid Wash” ties off the record with a triumphant finish, leaving us thirsty for more.

Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, out on January 13, is a truly unique album to start off the new year. It has just the right balance of accessibility and challenge. Anyone who claims this is an easy album to listen to is lying through their teeth. It’s a very challenging record to enjoy with all its chaos. Within each track is a different universe imploding in on itself. However, the difficulty of it is what makes it a great record. It pushes boundaries while staying true a continuous theme or feeling. It leaves a lot to the imagination while leaving little more to want. We have to give it up for Panda Bear being one of the most original artists of our time.

Track List:

  1. Sequential Circuits
  2. Mr Noah
  3. Davy Jones’ Locker
  4. Crosswords
  5. Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker
  6. Boys Latin
  7. Come To Your Senses
  8. Tropic of Cancer
  9. Shadow of the Colossus
  10. Lonely Wanderer
  11. Principe Real
  12. Selfish Gene
  13. Acid Wash
Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

78 / 100
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