Not 100% sure when this happened, but at some point in the last ten years, Panda Bear releases became more anticipated than Animal Collective releases. It's obvious now, with the quality and freshness difference between Grim Reaper and Painting With, but in 2007, Strawberry Jam and Person Pitch were BOTH in the 10 best records of the year by most metrics and that was the last time they were in the same universe.
Is there another artist whose simultaneous solo career has surpassed the artistry of his original still running band? Not trying to throw shade on Animal Collective, but to prove my point — they released not one but two EPs last year. Did you even know that? I didn’t until I looked it up because I only remembered one. And yet, here we are, jamming our vinyl-only copies of the much superior A Day With the Homies by Panda Bear.
We begin with “Flight”, which is the poppiest and most AC of the songs here. Skipping rhythmically and dancing melodically on top of the groove, a hi-hat is the main timekeeper skipping along like a train on some random YouTube kids show. Synth lightning begins “Part of the Math” for a two-minute break and build-up. The crunchy rhythms sound like a miniature microphone up to a child smashing Legos against a table. The BPM is high and snaking synths hold the ground in between prestigious mountains of sound. Plus we get a Damon Albarn-esque melodica portion with a Vanilla Sky repeating spoken word.
“Shepherd Tone” fluctuates, “Nod to the Folks” beats like Richard James and chants like a Sacred Bones artist. “Sunset” has melodies that flutter and beats that wriggles like a centipede laying on its back. An “EP” in name, A Day with the Homies is an LP in length and ideas; another solid release in a brilliant catalog.
A lot was made last year of the “class of” 2009 continuing to follow their own paths as the response slowly dries up. Animal Collective has aged artistically; Grizzly Bear is content to mostly stay silent; Dirty Projectors slowly falling apart (although their record last year was criminally underrated); Fleet Foxes subverting all expectations. I have to say that conversations about what music is going where will grow obsolete much before this music will. No one reads Rolling Stone from the 70’s to find out what trends they thought would happen. But everyone still listens to Neil Young and Led Zeppelin. Perhaps music criticism should reverse course away from talking about talking about music and thinking about thinking about music. As Shirley Bennett from Community said, “I mean come on Charlie Kaufman, some of us have work in the morning.” B