Anticipated “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” album debuts

Eddie Brancale

Those who know Animal Collective and its music know to expect only the most unconventional of sound. The group is composed of indie rockers whose main interest is creating the weirdest listening experience for their audience. Its releases, often synth-heavy and sonically driven, have been well received by the public and have established the band’s leaders, Avey Tare and Panda Bear, as the indie genre’s most progressive artists.  Panda Bear (born Noah Lennox) encompasses every facet of the indie genre on his latest release, “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper.” 

A mainstay of Animal Collective, Panda Bear just simply knows how to make music. After the release of “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” the public began to take notice of Panda Bear, and got even more comfortable with him after his feature on Daft Punk’s acclaimed album, “Random Access Memories.” 

While this may not have been his first solo release, “PBMTGR” has been anticipated by the public for quite some time, and for good reason. Here, Panda Bear is at his best, creating a groovy, momentous album that is on par with nearly all of Animal Collective’s work, furthering his status as an electro-rock guru. 

The complex, synthpop style music of Panda Bear is not really for the casual listener. Even indie-rock fanatics have trouble getting on board with the musical direction of both Panda Bear and the group. Animal Collective is noted for its distinct psychedelic sound, and Panda Bear makes it quite clear early on that this sound is here to stay. “Sequential Circuits” sets the tone for the album, creating a psychedelic mood reminiscent of Animal Collective’s best work, “Merriwether Post Pavilion.” His distant, unclear lyricism on the album further establishes this tone, and makes for an interesting first listen. The weirdness of Panda Bear is present in his lyricism, but his underlying weirdness is the driving force behind his musical inspiration. The electro-ballad “Tropic of Cancer” breaks new ground for Panda Bear. 

Written following the death of his father, the song is able to communicate the sadness of dealing with loss, even through the unconventional production of Panda Bear’s music. “Selfish Gene” is the highlight of the album, as it allows Panda Bear the freedom to express his lyricism clearly while maintaining his complex array of sound. “Acid Wash” and “Lonely Wanderer” are also stellar tracks, rounding out the album on a satisfying note. “Boys Latin,” the first single released from the LP, is its weakest track. Its off-kilter lyrical style and deep house production prove to be too combative, resulting in the only dud of the album. 

Overall, “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” is an early front-runner for Album of the Year. While it may not appeal to the general listener or to radio hosts, this album lets the mind of indie-rock’s most unconventional musician run wild and free, and the results prove only that the music world would be better off with a few more Panda Bears running around.