The Lineup

Panda Bear

Lisbon, Portugal

Don’t be fooled by Noah Lennox’s kind face or the cuteness of the zoological name he takes as a musician, Panda Bear: Both solo and with his wildly successful band Animal Collective, Lennox built one of last decade’s most daunting artistic legacies, setting a critical and popular standard by which many of his indie rock peers were—and are—evaluated.

That reputation hinges largely on Lennox’s ability to shape hooks and warp them with all manner of chemical and kaleidoscopic effects. For instance, his second solo album, 2004’s sadly overlookd Young Prayer, is a nine-track, 28-minute collection of wordless pieces for guitar and voice, recorded quickly by Lennox as a gift for his ailing father. More like a bird than a bear, Lennox floats thin, lithe bits of wordless melodies above the beatific, beautiful instrumentals. Almost by accident, they catch better than the hooks of plenty of rock bands.

Person Pitch—Lennox’s 2007 seashore-and-psychedelic sing-along, widely regarded as one of the last decade's best works—both cemented his reputation as a formidable solo artist and helped set the stage for Animal Collective’s breakthrough later that year with Strawberry Jam. It did so by taking melodies that made for addiction and, again, bending them or burying them just enough that you just had to listen again—and again and again and again. Its leading anthem, “Comfy in Nautica,” bounces along to a handclap rhythm, while Lennox eases a mantra—“Coolness is the courage to do what’s right”—with the beat. Just beneath, though, a broad section of harmonies creates waves of counterpoint, rising loud and fast as the main line disappears. The effect is that of being tossed by choppy seas in a tiny boat—and loving the feeling it brings.

Panda Bear, who lives in Lisbon, Portugal, premiered a handful of new songs at a European gig early this year, but aside from news that it's called Tomboy and it's due in the fall on Paw Tracks, we don't know much about it. As such, this show is one of only two Panda Bear engagements scheduled in America so far this year. When he plays in Raleigh City Plaza, the September sun will have set, giving Panda Bear’s maddeningly manipulated pop and stunning light show the best possible impact outdoors. —Grayson Currin