Panda Bear Young Prayer

[Paw Tracks; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: proto-blues, primal scream therapy, postnew folk
Others: Animal Collective, Jackie-O Motherfucker, John Lennon

Who out there really likes this New Weird America/Folk bullshit? Sure, I listen to it occasionally, I'll admit, but who out there loves this whole scene? One time long ago I mused to myself that if a music cannot conceivably be loved, then its certainly not very good, much less memorable. To wit, I have no idea what music compelled me to consider that. But, the point here is that I don't see most of the whole New Weird scene being lovable. From Charalambides to No Neck to Sunburned Hand of the Man, they don't really inspire much emotion in me, affection or otherwise. But I love Jackie-O Motherfucker. And I believe myself to be consistent. So, I must have some explanation and draw some differentiation, right?

Cue Panda Bear. This record sounds very similar to the new weird-os, but, what it shares with Jackie-O Motherfucker, and this is the distinction, is a very strong sense of humanity. While I think those aforementioned bands are capable of sounding nice, and I would probably even say nice things about them, it sounds like so much disposable and lifeless flotsam to me. Each of these bands have innumerable releases out in their relatively short lifespan, so it would be hard for a listener to even discern which music the artist really loves, much less what they should love. And similarly, all of the releases free the artists from the accountability of having to point to one thing and say "I made this, and I'm damn proud of it." Whereas with the intense intimacy of this album, Panda Bear has nowhere to hide, nor should we think he's looking to avert himself in the least.

Armed mainly with just his guitar and voice, Panda Bear creates some of the most longing and heart-rending songs you'll ever hear. Being overwhelmingly emotionally charged, a little unevenness shows through as a result: it isn't by any means an easy listen. But, its not all morose, either, with a couple life-affirming songs interloping. It brings to mind nothing more than John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" in its almost confrontational openness. And its this confrontation and engagement on such basically human levels that I believe pulls it head and shoulders above the incredible amount of superficially similar chaff. The boldness to make such earnest and essential music is the very reason time remembers artists like Panda Bear while his peers fade into vague memories.

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