Panda Bear: Tomboy (Paw Tracks) 

Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) has cited sources as disparate as Nirvana, Frank Sinatra and J Dilla as inspiration for Tomboy, his beguiling fourth solo outing away from Animal Collective.

Clearly, the electronic haze and ethereal coos that constitute Tomboy suggest that the devil is in the details. However, "Tomboy" surges on raw Nintendo beats with an alt-rock ferocity, and "Slow Motion" has a rattling, stuttering hip-hop charm—but these songs are equally indebted to Van Dyke Parks and Brian Eno.

Playing the game of influences is a mundane, unrewarding exercise that rarely works with an artist like Panda Bear, who melds decades of pop music into a pillowy haze. On Tomboy, Lennox replaces the bright appeal of Person Pitch with a becalmed soundscape that is less trying than some of his more experimental or indulgent past work.

The album also benefits from more traditional song structures, as on the trilling, lurching, murky rhythms of "Last Night at the Jetty," ostensibly Lennox's take on "Sea of Love." Meanwhile, album opener "You Can Count on Me" uses Gregorian-chanting vocals to poignant effect.

Unfortunately, the electronics can overwhelm listeners, and "Alsatian Darn," "Scheherazade" and "Friendship Bracelet" bleed together as a sound collage composed of hiccupping electronics, occasional clangorous percussion and soothing lyrical incantations. Nevertheless, the catholic charms of closer "Benfica," with its soaring vocals and mile-high atmospherics, show off Lennox's formidable strengths and help distinguish him from any motley crew.

More by Michael Petitti


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