The latest solo album from Noah Lennox – AKA Panda Bear, one quarter of the Animal Collective – sounds something like a combination of his previous two efforts. There’s the same washed out, percussive psychedelia of 2011’s Tomboy, but filtered through the colourful folk deconstructions of 2007’s landmark Person Pitch. The result is a breezy, woozy grower of an album that, while not as immediately arresting as some of the AnCo discography, slowly threads it’s winding melodies and hooks around your ears, growing more essential with each listen.
Key to it all is Lennox’s vocals, which tie each track together with their reverb-soaked buoyancy, while at the same time remaining poignant and relatable through the simple, melancholy prettiness of Lennox’s lyrics, even when they aren’t wholly decipherable. Mid-album cut ‘Come To Your Senses’ is a perfect example of this, a track that wouldn’t have been particularly remarkable without Lennox’s simple, infectious refrain ‘Are you mad? Are you mad?’, which seems to be clawing itself out of the noisy, psychedelic swirl that surrounds it. The achingly beautiful ‘Tropic of Cancer’ is another highlight, full of lilting guitars blowing away in the tropical breeze of Lennox’s vocals, as he laments the sadness of partings and the struggles of fatherhood.
Not every song reaches these same heights, however – a couple of tracks, namely ‘Principe Real’ and ‘Acid Wash’ – are lost in the bulk of the album. And the handful of 30 second, glitchy instrumentals which bridge some of the songs, such as ‘Davy Jones Locker’, are largely a pointless annoyance. These aside, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a wonderfully enigmatic record, and the strongest release from anything AnCo related since 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion.