Album Review- Panda Bear, “Mr Noah” EP

Jared Hemming

With Panda Bear’s latest “Mr Noah" EP, the animal collective alum gives us a taste of his upcoming full-length “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” with a four-song set previewing Panda’s continued foray into melodious noise.

 

The EP’s first track, “Mr Noah,” begins with monstrous growls (and dog barks) reminiscent of AnCo’s 2007 release “Strawberry Jam” and 2012’s “Centipede Hz” in terms of its overloaded clatter factor.

 

Unlike these latter-day Animal Collective albums, Panda Bear avoids sounding bloated on “Mr Noah,” as the wailing bedlam of the first seconds gives way to Panda’s tuneful tenor and a grounded backbeat.

 

At a concert I attended recently, Panda Bear debuted “Mr Noah,” along with “Boys Latin” and a few other songs from the “Grim Reaper” album. The set of almost-entirely new songs displayed a different sound Panda is achieving with these new releases, one driven by old-school hip-hop-esque backbeats that ground the bear’s otherwise-swirling cacophony.

 

Despite the song’s title, “Mr Noah” is anything but a straight memoir (Panda Bear’s real name is Noah Lennox). Panda’s canorous vocal delivery masks Lennox’s lyrical content, though lines “this dog got bit on a leg/ he got a really big chip on a leg” do little to instantly reveal the songwriter’s intent. In interviews, Panda Bear has hinted that the upcoming album is an outward reflection on personal growth. The “grim” title, however, suggests that Panda’s 2015 release will be a conversation with death.

 

The EP’s second song, “Faces in the Crowd,” strengthens the death-conversation element in its first stanza, which repeats the line “to my guy ‘til I die” eight times before ending with “go ask why, no reply.”

 

Panda Bear’s sweet, Beach Boys-esque harmonies add poignance that transcends the cryptic quality of his lyricism, and one hopes that in his forthcoming conversation with death, Panda escapes unharmed.