Over the last decade, Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) has crept into popular consciousness in his own unique way. Following the rise of his seminal outfit Animal Collective, Lennox relocated to Portugal in 2004, living quietly in a creative bubble somewhat away from distraction. His much-anticipated fifth solo album …Meets the Grim Reaper finds the Maryland native at the peak of his powers, but somehow strictly on his own terms.
From the opening track, the record is dappled with his signature haunting vocal and intricate production. Singles ‘Mr. Noah’ and ‘Boys Latin’ are simple yet mesmerising, the ping-pong vocals on the latter are equally disorientating and catchy. However, it’s when the artist shifts gear, downwards if you like, into new territory that the record really comes alive. ‘Tropic Of Cancer’ is one of those tracks that make you feel like your iTunes has jumped onto shuffle of its own accord. The song begins with a military horn salute and then drifts into a beautiful harp arpeggio. Lennox’s croon begins, this time stripped of all effects, and the result is like a transfixing, modernist version of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’. Companion ballad ‘Lonely Wanderer’ begins with a flourishing acoustic piano sprinkled with electronics and a dreamy, wistful vocal. The rest of the album is typically clever, cerebral synth-pop, but it’s the middle section still lingers in the listeners’ memory. With the execution of these inventive new ideas, the artist cements himself at the top of his own lofty but lonely perch.