CROSSWORDS by Panda Bear
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Psychedelic Pop, Indietronica
Favorite Tracks: “Cosplay”
As is the current preferred practice, Panda Bear dropped CROSSWORDS as a surprise release on August 21st. Gaining fame and notoriety as a (possibly the) leading member of the blog darling group Animal Collective, Panda Bear established himself as a legitimate modern artist with his stellar, latter-day solo efforts (2007’s PERSON PITCH and 2011’s TOMBOY). Anticipation was high for his follow-up project (especially considering the tepid 2014 effort of AnCo peer Avey Tare, ENTER THE SLASHER HOUSE), and January’s PANDA BEAR MEETS THE GRIM REAPER was a perfectly amiable release. Unfortunately, CROSSWORDS feels hastily compiled, lacks a solidified statement, and renders itself entirely extraneous.
The EP starts off with “Crosswords – EP Mix”, a re-envisioning of the fourth track off of January’s PANDA BEAR MEETS THE GRIM REAPER. Unlike many remixes (using the literal interpretation of the word), this one actually exhibits tangible differences, as opposed to a phoned-in excuse to promote a greatest hits compilation. Focusing the track more on its dance elements than the parent text managed to, “Crosswords – EP Mix” is clean, economical, and incorporates some additional welcome elements in the lower registers of the percussion track. Decidedly un-psychedelic for Panda Bear, the track may not be the strongest opener, but certainly doesn’t put the listener off by any means. Unfortunately, the moderate amount of steam the opener manages to build up quickly dissipates. “No Man’s Land” is a lukewarm psychedelic offering that fails to ever grab the audience’s attention, with its vaguely Oriental snippets of noise consistently caterwauling in the background. Feeling definitively like a B-side, the mystically atmospheric percussion chugging along behind the dancehall snare is somewhat engaging, but doesn’t merit a repeat listen. “Jabberwocky” suffers a similar fate as an obvious filler track, as Mr. Noah’s vocals rarely manage to entertain aural pleasure centers for extended periods of time. However, it must be pointed out that the instrumentation itself would contribute to one Hell of an East Coast boom bap track, and the listener is sure to be disappointed when some more esoteric MC fails to hop on for a verse.
“The Preakness” acts as a false prophet, initially promising a kinetic, definitive bass and piano melody that isn’t lost in Panda Bear’s predilection for manufactured atmosphere. Unfortunately, although the incessant march of the drums keeps the head bobbing, the track never manages to coalesce into anything memorable, due to its lack of song structure. Although many (rightfully) complain about the regrettable lyrical and thematic content (marijuana has become so blasé), “Cosplay” at least indulges in a blissed out psychedelic stupor in its latter half, which easily carries the audience away and makes a case for itself to be considered as an EP highlight.
CROSSWORDS’ fundamental problem is that it lacks a distinct vision. Although it’s common hat for EPs to be used as a half-baked way to fulfill contracts and keep an artist’s name in the common lexicon, they can occasionally exhibit certain experimentation and expansion of style that wouldn’t necessarily hold up over the course of a full-length LP. Featuring a remix no one was clamoring for (“Crosswords – EP Mix”) and an official release of a previous bonus track from TOMBOY (“The Preakness”), CROSSWORDS already feels unnecessary. Considering that two of the three new songs are utter filler, there really is no reason to listen to CROSSWORDS at all.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend