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Monthly Archives: April 2011

We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves


This is a track from John Maus’ forthcoming album titled We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves set to be released on 6/28 on Ribbon Music. This reverb-overloaded synthscape track owes a lot of its sound to Ariel Pink, which is not a bad thing at all.

Might as well listen to “Quantum Leap” while you’re here, this song comes from the same album. I assume it is named after the roller coaster, “Quantum Loop,” that used to be at the Seabreeze Amusement Park in Rochester, NY.

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TomboyPanda Bear’s heavily hyped fourth album, Tomboy, is released and it lives up to expectations, although ultimately with reservations. Preceded by four singles that were released on four different labels and by the instantly-classic Person Pitch album, Panda Bear’s latest continues the creative streak that the Animal Collective members have been on for over five years. Meme-generating terms such as “post-Merriweather Post Pavilion” and “post-Person Pitch” have littered the internet inasmuch as defining new bands’ sound (for the record: chillwave is analogous with “post-Person Pitch“), so it could be said without hesitation that Tomboy was expected to be yet another game-changing album from Animal Collective’s most-visible band member.

Tomboy was recorded in a basement in Benfica, Portugal. In that respect one can understand the, let’s call it, dimmed-colors present here, at least compared to Person Pitch. The tracks “Drone,” “Slow Motion,” or the ambient “Scheherazade” exhibit ghostly vocals and other elements that evoke cool feelings. But, the entire album can’t be classified thusly. “Surfer’s Hymn” is the best example of a track that sounds the most like “old” Panda Bear, this track also sounds much better on the album than the single-version that released a few weeks before. The single-version of this track had a pitch-shifted vocal that I thought ruined everything. And, “Surfer’s Hymn” does sound contrived at the start, but Noah Lennox (who is Panda Bear) pulls it together into a cohesive, single-worthy (which it is) track.

The production here is commendable. Tomboy was originally planned to have been mixed by Animal Collective members Avey Tare and Deakin, but instead it was mixed by Spaceman 3 member Sonic Boom. The news that this album changed mixing personnel came late in this album’s gestation period, two of the album’s singles had already been released when this was said to be. Did this decision create the hushed-euphoric elements? I can’t say, but I will say that it didn’t harm this album any. Panda Bear has previously credited Beach Boys, and to be specific, Brian Wilson, as a source of inspiration for the music he creates. Several tracks on this album have beautiful harmonies, specifically the album-standout “Last Night at the Jetty,” which has a Beach Boys-style songwriting structure. Panda Bear is able to use his voice as an additional element in the music. Well, of course, but what I mean is that he uses it not unlike the way a guitar or percussion would be used. Specifically in “Last Night at the Jetty” during the breakdown of the repetitious “I know I know I know know I know I know I,” that speeds up the pace of the song. He does this again to great effect with that track’s b-side, “Drone.” Although, Panda Bear doesn’t do this to the same level of success that was displayed in Person Pitch. On that album, “Bros” and “Good Girl/Carrots” used avant-garde songwriting and production styles to alter pop music paradigms; unfortunately nothing on this album displays that kind of creative ingenuity. But, let’s not discredit the music on Tomboy, this album is superb. Another production element that owes a great deal to the themes in this album is the intonation of Panda Bear’s voice. His voice possesses an organ-like quality that makes the album feel otherworldly. The majority of the album is sung in the same intonation which keeps this sentiment present throughout.

Panda Bear noted in interviews that Tomboy would be guitar and rhythm-driven. The latter is correct, but only a few tracks use rhythm-guitar, one being the eponymous “Tomboy” track which is the album’s first high-point. Although the track is generally sparse, Panda Bear creates a great sense of depth with a minimal amount of ingredients. “Alsatian Darn” is noteworthy as well for its use of acoustic guitar and its handclaps, proving to potentially be the album’s most accessible track. Panda Bear could have instead said that the album does have a higher amount of singing than other Animal Collective albums, even on the ambient-style tracks.

As mentioned earlier, Animal Collective, and specifically here Panda Bear, continue to create abstract representations of pop music, but nothing on this album shouts “Eureka!” like Person Pitch had done. Tomboy is paced thoughtfully and showcases how music is often a production of the environment in which it was created; here it was a basement in the sun-washed city of Lisbon, Portugal. Last year, Avey Tare released his first solo album, Down There, as he was going through a divorce. That album was subdued and emotional, and despite its brevity, could be considered as the better release of these two records. Thankfully, sometimes the sun does shine through the reverb and the haze in Tomboy, and it’s OK if you go out to bathe in it.

(Reviewer’s Score: 3.8/5)