JFLTI: Panda Bear – Tropic Of Cancer
2015 is already shaping up to be a great year for music. In January alone we’ve had stellar debuts from the likes of Viet Cong and Natalie Prass and unexpected comebacks from the dormant Bjork and Sleater-Kinney. It’s looking more likely than ever though that some of these early albums will be buried by the avalanche of hotly anticipated albums to be released later this year. Hopefully one of the releases to weather this storm will be Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper. The latest album by Animal Collective member Noah Lennox still features a seemingly bottomless well of gorgeous melodies, unparalleled vocal harmonizing and wonderfully psychedelic beats. Lyrically however this is the most reflective and personal Panda Bear album yet, with many of songs being on the topic of confronting fear and self-doubt. Much like Panda Bear’s previous work, there is a stronger emphasis on catchy grooves and loops than progression. Many of the songs change up very little outside of Lennox’s vocals but they remain engaging due to the densely arranged electronics and a new emphasis on hip-hop influenced drumbeats. While the first half of the album is as bouncy and upbeat as you’d expect from Lennox, “Tropic Of Cancer” is an outstanding and unexpected change of pace half way into the album and might be one of best songs he has ever released under the Panda Bear moniker. The song is a rumination on his relationship with death and disease and manages to be one of the most affecting songs I’ve heard this year. Accompanied by a simple loop of a harp sample , Lennox gives perhaps his most beautiful and touching performance yet as he sings about the death of his father. The pained delivery of the blunt refrain of “you can’t get back, you won’t come back, you can’t come back to it” is utterly heartbreaking and I’d be surprised if any song released this year has as much of an emotional punch on me as this.