FIRST LISTEN: Panda Bear’s “Tomboy”

Parts of this article were adapted from my feverishly typed tweets during the event, you can read those here:

After about a year of waiting I have finally heard the completed version of Tomboy.


The listening party at Le Poisson Rouge yesterday was a very intimate experience. Roughly 50 people showed up for the 6PM listening, and nearly everyone was sitting on the floor in reverence once it began. People were completely silent during the songs, some had their eyes closed while others intensely looked into space. People were so intensely listening that my getting up to use the bathroom at one point caused everyone around me to flinch.

Now enough about the setting, everyone just wants to hear about the album.

1. You Can Count On Me – I remember thinking this song might work as the final song on the album, Lennox has ended many sets recently with this so I was put off when I found out its the opener. The song works really well, however. From the get go it shows you everything Tomboy is about. Its got a huge echo-y sound. The remixed version is crisper and clearer. You can tell from the start that Lennox’s vocals are at their best ever on Tomboy.

2. Tomboy – The title track was knocked by people when it came out. Tomboy has gotten one of the more drastic changes, and it sounds significantly better. Right from the start hits you with massive synths and bizarre electronic squelches. Upon listening to the old version I realize that these touches are present, but they’re so low in the mix you can barely tell they’re there. Now these things have been brought to the forefront, and are even louder than the repetitive guitar strumming. And when that dissonant effects come in around 2 minutes in the original, it now sounds live a fucking storm hitting midway through the song. Like all the songs here, the vocals have been boosted to great effect. My original thought remains: This song is a monolith of sound.

Panda Bear's Tomboy

Artwork for Tomboy single

3. Slow Motion – This was the favorite from the singles, and here its been expanded. Much like Tomboy there are some almost thunder-like effects added to Slow Motion, but they benefit Tomboy far more. The storm like effects constantly fight with the repetitive handclaps and piano loop to create some cool drama. Slow Motion isn’t as greatly improved as some of the others, but that might be because it was already such a great song.

4. Surfer’s Hymn – This begins with what could be xylophone and a thudding 4/4 drum beat. The vocals on this song are fucking gorgeous. Insert obligatory reference to how the title is also a Beach Boys song. Overall this is just an awesome Panda Bear song.

5.  Last Night at the Jetty – You’ve heard this one, its out on the internet now! I’ll post the link at the bottom so yo can hear it. My thoughts on it? Well its been cleaned up wonderfully, and now it reveals some pretty great drum work that was muddled before. That middle section (I know, I know, I know) might just be the most blissful thing Noah Lennox has recorded, its the perfect centerpiece to the album.

6. Drone – I remember some people complaining about Drone when the single came out. It might not be a song for everyone, but I’ll say two things about it. Its pretty much the same song you know, if you thought it was monotonous originally its not like Panda Bear added breakbeats or something. That said, it works really well in the context of the album. Its a nice bridge to the second half of Tomboy.

Artwork for You Can Count on Me single

7.  Alsatian Darn – This fought with Slow Motion for my favorite of the singles and its been made even better now. What already kicked ass is now just made even bigger in every way. Its loud and exciting, and after these months of hearing it, still a major highlight. Its well placed considering what comes next…

From here on out it was all new songs. So these were all very first impressions (I’d heard a live bootleg of Benefica, but believe me it doesn’t do it justice)

8. Scheherazade – Everyone was caught off guard by this, since its mainly just vocals and piano the whole time. I missed about a minute of this song, because of the aforementioned bathroom break (I shouldn’t have drank all that crab juice…). I heard most of this though, and its a little off-putting because its the first song on the album to break away from the tone. It reminds me of “No More Running” off MPP, sort of the token song on the album that people didn’t immediately adore. Its a very gentle moment on what’s now become a pretty heavy album.

Artwork for Last Night at the Jetty single

9. Friendship Bracelet – This song reminded me of AC more than any other. These synth loops chug away throughout the song, but it definitely felt calmer than some of the earlier songs.

10. Afterburner – HOLY SHIT! The penultimate song on Tomboy lives up to its badass name. I’d call this the liveliest song on the album. Its got a tribal feel to it, and pounding and pulsing drums. Lennox’s voice is at its most intense and powerful here. I didn’t get times for anything, but this also felt like the longest song on the album. It has a really long instrumental outtro. I kept thinking I could see this being played in a club somewhere. The song builds pace, and eventually the beat slows and fades away.

11. Benefica – The final song on Tomboy. I always get really fanatic about album closers. Its such an important spot on the album, its the final thought you leave people with. That said, Benefica is a masterpiece. Its filled with shimmer synths, and Lennox gives his best vocal performance to date, which make it the album highlight for me. Its just that good, and it ends what’s already a phenomenal album on a perfect note.

Final Thoughts: Tomboy is a wonder to hear. Lennox spoke in Rolling Stone recently about how he felt the record was heavy sounding, and while not negative certainly about weathering the storm.  I didn’t get what he meant until I heard this final mixed version, but that feeling really shows through the music.

Tomboy works as an album best of all, its something to be heard from start to finish. Its not as simple as we thought originally: just a collection of singles, that would be put together and released as an album. After spending months pouring over these songs, I couldn’t prepared myself for how breathtaking this record it.

Tomboy is due April 12th on Paw Tracks

Panda Bear

Last Night at the Jetty –

And yes, it is the best album I’ve heard this year. (Sorry James Blake, you gave it a damn good try)


~ by cheesedog22 on February 17, 2011.

2 Responses to “FIRST LISTEN: Panda Bear’s “Tomboy””

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jessica Tommaselli, milesbowe. milesbowe said: Curious about #PandaBear's new album #Tomboy? Read my first impressions of the mastered album. #AnimalCollective […]

  2. Great commentary. And thanks for tweeting it live yesterday. It was fun to follow along for those of us who are big-city-challenged.

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