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Noah Lennox, under the pseudonym Panda Bear, is a founding member of the experimental band Animal Collective who has garnered critical acclaim for his work with the group as well as his solo material. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I suggest looking over An Audiohammock Guide to Animal Collective, and listen to his album Person Pitch.
Panda Bear is a busy man. Between releasing his fifth album at the beginning of the year, recording new music with Animal Collective, releasing an EP preceding his album, releasing a remix album, and now finally releasing another EP, all in the past nine months, one starts to wonder how he has time for anything. But once you look at the tracklist for his new Crosswords EP things begin to make sense. “Crosswords” is a reworked version of a track on his last album, “The Preakness” was included as a bonus track on the box set of Tomboy, which leaves three new tracks, some of which have been circulating in the form of live bootlegs. But the most important thing is the quality of the music, and given Panda Bear’s near perfect track record, there is no reason to expect a flop.
The album begins with “Crosswords” a remix of the track of the same name off Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. And while the album version had a much more melancholy vibe, the EP version sounds bright and alive. The production is wet and tropical, with Panda Bear’s trademark synths swirling like water in a lagoon by the beach. The next song, “No Man’s Land” was released prior to the EP as a single and is one of the few songs that has never been heard in some form. Upbeat drums and strange, unidentifiable samples float around in the song’s atmosphere, grounded by Panda Bear’s droning tenor. The track would have fit right in on PBMTGR and its exclusion from the album is puzzling. “Jabberwocky” is quite uncharacteristic and sounds a little out of place with it’s booming hip-hop drums, a synth chord that is repeated throughout the whole song, and oddly generic lyrics: “Shoot for the stars, Then you only end up lost in space.” Still Panda’s ear for melody keeps the song as catchy as ever and it ends up being enjoyable overall. “The Preakness” definitely has a Tomboy vibe with it’s extremely wet synths and fast-paced harpsichord sample. The descending vocal lines during the chorus are extremely poppy, connecting it to “Jabberwocky” in that regard.
And then there’s “Cosplay.” A nursery rhyme for mary jane, a ballad for the bubonic chronic, a cadence for cheeba, a song for the spliff, a psalm for pot, a hymn for hydro, a carol for the crippy, a ditty for dope, a poem for purp, a shanty for that sticky icky, a tune for toke, a melody for marijuana that would make Snoop Dogg proud. “Marijuana makes my day, Marijuana day, Marijuana, Marijuana...”
Crosswords is by no means essential listening in the Panda Bear canon but is certainly a welcome surprise for long time fans that were itching for more after PBMTGR.