At a music festival last summer, I found myself stuck listening to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion while waiting to hear Panda Bear. When Jon Spencer and his sweaty leather pants left the stage, nearly the entire crowd left with him, one man shouting, “Let’s get away from the kid with the laptop!” In a weird way he was speaking the truth – at first listen, Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) might sound simply like a guy creating some loops on his computer, an easy task with today’s technology. His previous album, 2007’s Person Pitch, can sound at times like one long song, swirling and repetitive. Yet Lennox’s new release, Tomboy, takes his music into a new arena of streamlined, minimalistic songwriting.
Fans of Person Pitch and Animal Collective (Lennox’s band)’s previous release, Merriweather Post Pavilion, might be disappointed by Tomboy at first. Person Pitch and Animal Collective feature songs that are at times extremely dense and chaotic, whereas Tomboy features eleven tracks that are much more direct and grounded, favoring sparse textures.
Instead of an album that sounds like one long crazy song, it’s easy to pick out Lennox’s differing ideas from track to track. Certain songs are reminiscent of the circular dreaminess of Lennox’s earlier release, specifically ‘Afterburner,’ but for the most part Lennox seems to have created a carefully crafted record without the spontaneity of Person Pitch.
What we hear in this album is an affirmation that Lennox is able to successfully bounce back and forth between glittering noise and stark hooks. Tomboy is a fantastic album that shows that a happy medium can be found after all, thanks to his songwriting. “Didn’t I have a good time?” he asks on ‘Last Night at the Jetty’, and I can’t help but be reminded of the line “I’ll try to remember always just to have a good time” on Person Pitch’s ‘Comfy in Nautica’. Quite a bit of time has passed since 2007, and Lennox has definitely learned something about himself and his music. Tomboy is a careful declaration of exactly what that might be.