Almost a year after releasing the first single from what was to become “Tomboy,” Panda Bear finally released the entire album last week.
A few tracks will already be familiar to fans, as some have been released as singles, although in somewhat different arrangements.
Those who listened to “Tomboy” the single over the past eight months may notice the song’s subtly different intro. But thankfully, Noah Lennox refrained from making major adjustments to the already familiar tracks.
Panda Bear, Lennox’s solo project, has always maintained its Animal Collective influences, although he insists that this record represents the most marked departure from the AC sound. It’s perhaps most accurate to say that “Tomboy,” like acclaimed predecessor “Person Pitch,” continues the process of taking the Collective down to the single member level.
The first five tracks steal the show. Fans will recognize most, as the previously released singles.
Hymn-like opener “You Can Count on Me” has Lennox chanting those same words throughout, establishing a theme of repetition that sinks through the rest of the album.
The style of computer-generated effects on “Tomboy” differs significantly from Lennox’s previous work. The album is unequivocally chill, lacking the high tempos and upbeat rhythms that made songs like “Take Pills” and “Bros” instant favorites.
That is not to say “Tomboy” makes any concessions, especially during the first half. Take “Slow Motion,” where he retorts to common adages like “practice makes perfect” and “an apple a day,” in the most unlikely of ways:
“And when I slow it down, it’s clear just how it’s what they don’t say, that’s what counts,” he sings.
Crashing waves and electronically generated wind chimes open “Surfers Hymn,” with a languid intro that turns upbeat in an electronic mashup of reverb and distortion. Though, even at its heightened pace, the song never steps outside of the perimeter of “Tomboy”’s dominant sense of nonchalance.
In the interests of balance and reciprocity, the album’s first half is finely rounded off with the steady, lyrically rich “Last Night at the Jetty,” and its nearly poetic line, “I want to enjoy what’s meant to enjoy, not try to find slights and slurs to employ.”
Apart from sound, Lennox experiments with both placement and aesthetics. The possibly deliberate placement of mid-album reverie “Drone” neatly splits the album in two.
On “Tomboy,” Lennox’s lyrical talent is often unintentionally lost in the process of creating the clean and consistent sensory impression that highlights the album. But, unlike on “Person Pitch,” which was a great record thematically, the lyrics here are less abstract and more evocative, less whimsical and more thought-provoking.
Paying close attention to the speech behind the distortion reveals that, amid the languid, drawn out choruses of songs such as “Benfica,” Lennox often acts the philosopher.
“There is nothing more true or natural than wanting to win,” he says. “There’s nothing more to life, nothing more to life.”