If you’re into music that’s unusual and explorative like I am, you’re gonna love these guys. Animal Collective, or AnCo for short, is an experimental pop group from Baltimore. The band’s founders/members are Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb) and Geologist (Brian Weitz). They have explored a wide range of genres and employed many different techniques into their music to create a sound that evolves with each release. To this day, AnCo’s evolution is the most striking to me of all of the artists I’ve listened to. As much as I love them, Animal Collective remains a polarizing band to many listeners. Of the group’s members, Panda Bear has been the most successful in straying from the band’s formula in a satisfying way. Let me introduce you to him!
Meet Panda Bear, or Noah Lennox. The moniker originated from Lennox’s habit of drawing pandas on his early mixtapes. A lot of what Panda Bear does is rooted in this kind of honest, grounded approach. The way he presents himself, speaks and even performs carries some degree of humility. This interview with the Sydney Opera House gives a lot of insight into how he thinks and approaches music:
His music also seems to speak to people; He is an introspective and thoughtful person, and his fans latch on to it. One of the most interesting things about Panda’s music is his lyricism. His lyrics tend to be very cryptic and cleverly written, revealing deep, personal thoughts in an indirect way. Above all else, I believe Panda Bear is a musician who has represented the human experience in a fascinating way.
But what about the music? Well, Lennox’s music is the most rooted in modern trends of all of the Animal Collective solo projects. His most recent release, “playing the long game”, is essentially a psychedelic trap song. While this is a new direction for Panda Bear, many of his releases incorporate stylistic choices in the same way. For example, his 2007 album Person Pitch echoes the production techniques of dub music, which he is inspired by. Throughout most of his career, Panda Bear singing has often been compared the Beach Boys’ falsetto vocals. His most recent album, 2019’s Buoys, uses hyper-modern music production techniques, especially that of trap and reggaeton. Long story short, Panda Bear is built around many different styles of music, much like Animal Collective as a whole.
I think that Panda’s modern edge has made him into the most popular AnCo offshoot, and its easy to see why. He creates these addictingly loopy soundscapes that are deceptively layered, yet can be danced to.
I’d also like to mention Panda’s skill at picking songs to feature on. He’s worked with all sorts of amazing artists, including Daft Punk, Solange, and Teebs. Often, he’s contributed a lot to the song and made it much more interesting. “Studie”, a song by Teebs off of Anicca, is the most obvious example, as far as I’m concerned:
In my opinion, Panda Bear is a good person with an honorable approach, an experimental trailblazer, and the world’s best feature artist. When I started listening to him, I thought this was enough. I hope you agree with me.