A decade ago, Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) was having a "moment." His 2007 album, Person Pitch, brilliantly blended hypnotic loops with luminescent Beach Boys-style harmonies, and his 2009 Animal Collective contribution, "My Girls," was a bona fide indie hit that brought the group to the peak of their commercial viability.
Since then, Panda's work has gotten a little darker and more cryptic, and while his output has been solid, he's no longer capturing the zeitgeist. That's not going to change with A Day with the Homies — after all, this EP is being issued exclusively on vinyl, meaning that its audience will be drastically reduced by its format. It's a bold move from an artist who is unwilling to make compromises, either with his music or his release tactics.
Side A is a unique blend of rustic and futuristic: there are extended breaks with naturalistic field recordings that give way to beat-driven bangers akin to 2015's Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Opener "Flight" features giddy melodies that evoke Paul Simon at his most playful, while epic-length standout "Part of the Math" blends euphoric beats with eerie blasts of fuzz that could have been culled from a horror soundtrack.
Side B, on the other hand, ventures into outer space with its bloopy electronic palette. The lonesome synth swoops of "Nod to the Folks" sound like transmissions from a space station (or possibly a Boards of Canada album), while the juddering tremolo effects of "Shepard Tone" and squelchy bass of "Sunset" channel the sonic trickery that Panda is known for with Animal Collective.
The lyrics are murky — there are none of the plainspoken tales of domesticity that Lennox used to specialize in — but the burbling soundscapes and soaring pop melodies are gorgeous. It's only a shame that, given its format, it's destined for such a niche market. (Domino)