Animal Collective main man keeps things different.
Now a cult favorite in his own right, the monumental Person Pitch elevated Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) from being just another Animal in the Collective. Tomboy, Lennox’s long–awaited follow–up, does what any over–hyped album should do: it keeps the most basic working components intact while spinning everything else in a (darker) new direction.
Not every AnCo release is treated with such fanfare — even bandmate Avey Tare’s 2010 solo effort was a little lost in the lead–up to Tomboy. Lennox has been teasing fans with singles for the past year or so, a move that suggested there might not be a whole lot of untested material once the album finally dropped. And though these singles feature many of the most memorable hooks (“Last Night At The Jetty,” which has been all over the internet for months, is the album’s best song), they don’t tell the entire story. Tomboy is a markedly cohesive work, strung along by droning instrumentation with few shifts in style but even fewer dull points.
Unlike its predecessor, Panda Bear’s fourth solo effort isn’t a sun–kissed, summery affair; the synths and guitars are swampy, and Lennox’s way of stretching syllables over multiple beats gives the vocals a particularly draining feel. But the strange beauty of many of these songs, particularly “Jetty” and “Alsatian Darn,” counteracts this effect. Many of Animal Collective’s detractors find issue with the band’s basic resistance to pop song structures, yet there is something profoundly poppy about this work. The stranger songs, such as the aptly titled “Drone” and “Scheherezade” (which sounds like something from Feels–era Animal Collective) are the exception this time, not the rule.
That said, Tomboy is anything but conventional. There aren’t a lot of adjectives or genre tags that could do the album justice — Lennox is clearly in uncharted territory. The record’s closest musical soul mate is probably AnCo’s 2009 Fall Be Kind EP, an understated, slow–burning bookend to the group’s gradual plunge into the mainstream consciousness. But Tomboy operates as if Lennox is still on the fringes — despite its hooks, it never fails to lay claims in places new and utterly different.