Panda Bear Young Prayer

Panda Bear, along with Avey Tare, is one of the founding members of Brooklyn’s increasingly prolific noise-pop experimentalists Animal Collective. Not counting a long out-of-print album he made in his teenage years, Young Prayer is Panda Bear’s solo debut, a 28-minute song-cycle that is equal parts inimitable joy and deep sadness. The story goes that Panda Bear (whose real name is the far less cuddly Noah Lennox) secluded himself to record the album back in 2002, shortly after the passing of his father, so it’s not surprising that themes of death and rebirth seem to shadow and colour the whole affair, which certainly feels like the prayer of its title. Musically, Young Prayer serves as a sort of precursor or prologue to the acoustic intimacy and unbridled happiness that propels Animal Collective’s most straightforward and groundbreaking success, this year’s Sung Tongs, while keeping things far more personal and lo-fi. This may not be as crucial as Animal Collective’s last few albums, but Young Prayer is nevertheless a highly rewarding and intensely intimate release that reveals new pleasures with each listen and places Panda Bear’s contributions to his parental band in a clearer context. Rest assured, Animal fanatics: you will not be disappointed. (Paw Tracks)