Saturday, October 31, 2009

Person Pitch - Panda Bear (#10, 2007)

"Take one day at a time,
Everything else you can leave behind,
Only one thing at a time,
Anything more really hurts your mind.

I don't want for us to take pills anymore,
Not that it's bad." - Take Pills

"Comfy in Nautica" from Person Pitch (2007)

There's been some pretty heavy foreshadowing of this album. Because it looms so large over 2007, probably the consensus non-mass-market record of the year. At least that's what the stickers said on the cd I bought in Avon, CO.

First, I mentioned not being much of a Beach Boys fan, then putting two direct descendents in the Top 10. Later, I hinted at how I should probably be a bigger Animal Collective fan, but am not. I already unsuccessfully tried Sung Tongs (2004), downloaded live recordings to no avail, and even possible album-of-this-year Merriweather Post Pavilion hasn't grabbed me yet. But this one is majestic, for a certain frame of mind.

The album straddles a few extremes: sampladelic experimentalism with pure pop hooks, background washout versus microscopic intricacy, skeletally spare structures built from orchestral layers. First "Comfy in Nautica" enters with some industrial clatter, into a sunny sing-song over a gospel-loop bluesman's foot-stomp handclap pattern. Electronic noises swirl and waves of reverb crash into the ending. Hard to say how much has really happened. "Take Pills" also starts off with some ambient found sounds, then there comes a tambourine. Peeking through is a meandering folksong for hip young adults. At exactly halfway, the beat starts to shuffle up and the voices start chasing after one another. A bright and sunwashed melody about throwing away our drugs. Then a train leaves the station...

"Bros" is epic, and the early part wears Brian Wilson on its sandy, Hawaiian-print sleeve. Even as dark undercurrents begin to tug at weary legs, until the screaming and crying begins. The submerged Spanish rhythm gives way to an upfront and insistent gallop, without affecting too much else. Things keep shifting. Now we've got both rhythms over each other, the singing drifts off, and somehow digital chatter and vibes have already snuck in. Cutting in with backwards-masking vox and stop/start dynamics, more layers start piling up again. Sanity has left the building, there might be a trumpet or other horn, beach bunny giggling, a western tv show gunfight...
A teenage symphony to acid?

Stuck between the two long-form songs, "Im Not" is relatively slight, and transitional. Like a calm between attention storms. The two-parter "Good Girl/Carrots" is as long as "Bros," but breaks it out more. The tabla intro signals the most electronic-rhythmic section of the album, not necessarily to any real benefit. The middle third is a relief after the glitchy siren loop: pretty singing, rolling piano, gears 'n' clockwork click-track(s). The final part is a little closer to side 1's rhythm, noise and voice combos. Afterwards comes the somehow ambient-and-squelchy "Search for Delicious," which is either relaxing or unsettling (depending on how close a listen). And the final track, "Ponytail," is the shortest and most straightforward song, wrapping things up very nicely.

You can see why this album is popular with music critic types, right? Lots of different angles, things to talk about, compare and contrast. Sounds really good too. I prefer the first half, and if the rest were that way it might be a total favorite. But it might not be a better album, and I can understand other people maybe wanting more of the latter half. Which says a lot about a very good record.

Person Pitch
Official/Myspace -
Purchase - Amazon
iTunes - Panda Bear

Genre - Gospel Noise Pop
Review - Pitchfork (ended up as their #1 of the year)

Also, I did it! Finished the Top 10 before month's end...

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