WHEN/WHERE/WHY to listen to “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”

WHEN: When you have one foot in the dream world. When you are teetering precariously along the borders of deliriousness. When you’ve been awake for 2 days and you’re watching the second sunset go down since you last slept.

WHERE: tumblr_mabughbEUs1r0lpsto2_1280Here.

HOW: On a far away PA system booming and bouncing its bass off the walls like basketballs.

WHY: Because Panda Bear has graciously invited us to go swimming with him but he never specified in what. The what turns out to be a vast marsh of bouncy textures and dreamy melodic vocals. It’s almost as if each song is a yellow smiley face dropping out of a haunted gumball machine.

Dude’s songwriting may be at its very strongest on this record. Panda Bear taps in to a stylistically classic Beach Boys-y architecture, but accompanies himself with a decidedly eccentric landscape. His straightforward and sentimental vocal lines go skipping merrily through a video game graveyard.

He also has a lot of fun with call and response, kinda like he’s bursting into duets with his shadow.

Production-wise, Panda Bear seems to collect and curate strange samples like that guy who likes to have yard sales every weekend, not to make money, but to be like, “hey look at this weird stuff I found.” Some of this weird stuff includes a snippet of Debussy’s impressionist piano tinkling, a layer of the groove from “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” some Reading Rainbow-esque pulsating synth pan flutes, and the sound ofwhat seems to be 200 of those alien thingies from Toy Story rolling down a hill.

Thematically, Panda Bear treats his convo with the Grim Reaper in a comic bookish fashion. He relies on outline and stylistic implication to relay most of the message. 90% of his lyrics are lost to the reverb, but we still get the sense that we know what he’s trying to tell us.

In my interpretation of this album’s story, Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper, they go out for sardine pizza, then they hit the arcade, and share a romantic waltz together under a streetlight. But at the end of the night, the Grim Reaper ends up going home with someone else.

This album’s spirit animal is a blue and green tree frog who then just bounces off to rejoin the other singing creatures of the night. “Just as well,” it seems to ribbit into the echoing dark.


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