Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #88: "Benfica" - Panda Bear

Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, is said to be the forerunner to the chillwave movement we discussed as part of No. 95 on this list, Penguin Prison's "Don't Fuck With My Money." Call him a participant in the genre or not, but his influence on the electronic indie music scene is certainly laudable. Particularly important was 2007's Person Pitch, which thrust Lennox into the limelight as a solo artist, rather than as part of the highly experimental Animal Collective.

Four years after that album, Panda Bear resurfaced with new music, which was understandably quite a bit deal in March and April. Tomboy is its name, and a departure from earlier Panda Bear material is its game.

If I can be real for a moment, my brethren, it is on Tomboy that Lennox attempts a transformation into Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Or Carl. Or Dennis. Or, hell, maybe all of The Beach Boys. ALL AT ONCE. Either way, vocally, Lennox has gone full-Wilson. Musically it's anything but, with strange electronic jolts, guitars and enough distortion to feed a colony of Smashing Pumpkins fanatics.

Tomboy ends with "Benfica," a spacy, echo-ey jam that exhibits shades of the chillwave scene Lennox is said to have helped enliven, but with a spin that only a member of Animal Collective could pull off. Without Lennox's vocals, one could imagine the song being set to a montage of pictures or video about certain celestial objects.

But it's the vocals that shine here. The harmony-laden performance from Lennox is captivating, rising and falling over the distortion, electronic blips and sounds of crowds cheering. No, seriously on the last one. At first (or second... maybe even third) listen, the latter may seem out of place, but a look at the lyrics will clear things up a bit.

"Some might say that / To win's not all that it's about / It's just not something to say," sings Lennox. "But there is nothing more true / Or natural than wanting to win."

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