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Posted on August 26th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Michael Negron

Panda Bear has been busy. The Animal Collective founding member and "perfect percussion" extraordinaire released Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper and Mr. Noah within the last year, and just a month or so ago Justin took a look at the gimmicky remixes of PBVSGR; at that point, I would have agreed with Justin that those remixes were "the path of least resistance" forewarned by Noah, but we were both wrong: Crosswords, his recent surprise-drop EP, is the end to that path, the definition of an obligatory release.

Understand that "obligatory" is not necessarily bad; Crosswords will undoubtedly delight diehards, and total newcomers will likely find it pleasant, if disjointed. It's hard to fault the tracks in terms of sheer sound design, but it lacks something just as important: a sense of cohesion and relevance. "The Preakness" and "Crosswords" (yes, even the title track) have appearances on other records - Tomboy and PBMTGR respectively – and most of the "original" tracks aren't exactly all that new, both "Jabberwocky" and "Cosplay" existing in easily accessible form. It's nice to hear the re-imaginings, and finally getting an "official" studio release of the latter two tracks, but that puts a lot of pressure on "No Man's Land" to drive home a significant reason to bother listening at all.

It does succeed to a point, but there's really no point to the record itself. Crosswords can't decide whether it wants to be a compilation of reworked material, a collection of b-sides, or a glorified single, or settling for something in-between. It looks like very little thought went into it at all, characterized in excellent fashion by a line in the useless closer: "Marijuana makes my day." Is that what I'm missing here? Do I need to get #blazed to truly understand the summertime feels? That's a really poor excuse, as is the idea that "fun" music shouldn't be held to the same standard of quality control as every other record.

Crosswords is ultimately a better experience than the remixes, but only marginally, and only in a certain context. To the completely uninitiated, it's not a bad introduction to Panda Bear's work, and to those who have been dying for those specific reworkings and studio renditions, there's no doubt you'll walk away satisfied. But if you're looking for any kind of unified purpose, statement, format, or anything we’ve come to expect from even the loosest of compilations, you'll be unmoved.

Oh, and can we stop with the "surprise" drops?

Track List:

  1. Crosswords (EP Mix)
  2. No Man's Land
  3. Jabberwocky
  4. The Preakness
  5. Cosplay
Panda Bear
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

58 / 100
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