"Try to remember, always/always to have a good time." The lyrical hook that opens Person Pitch, the third solo album from Animal Collective's sentimental sage Panda Bear —one Noah Lennox— is an impossibly loaded sentiment.
On one hand, it's an ironic command in a song that, amongst other things, critiques societal notions of coolness and toughness in regards to masculinity. But, staggeringly, the sentiment isn't some simple joke; the repeated line's loaded quality coming not from some kind of buried comedy, but that fact that, just maybe, Lennox was chanting a mantra meant in all earnestness.
Panda Bear's second record, 2004's sparse Young Prayer, bears little in common with anything else in the entire Animal Collective canon. Consisting entirely of Lennox, alone, barely strumming a guitar, the suite of untitled songs was, upon its release, shocking in its intimacy: the LP one long poem whispered into the ear of a dying father.
Three years on, with father gone, and new wife and child by his side, Lennox clearly wanted to shed that heaviness. And Person Pitch, an album written during late Lisbon nights, was an album hoped to be a tool of levity. Aiming to make a 'dancefloor-friendly' record, Lennox borrowed from Basic Channel techno records, dub production techniques, and Beach Boy harmonies; constructing the record's strange-yet-seemingly-familiar sounds with a sampler.
Person Pitch functioned, thus, as a form of musical therapy; Lennox hope to author a new state-of-mind through the music he's making. Taken as such, it makes no surprise that the lyrics often feel like self-help mantras, little mental post-it notes to keep him on the right mental track.
But, like any course of therapy, confrontation is just as important as self-reflection, and, so, Lennox admonishes his mother to get off the anti-depressants ("Take Pills"), levels a domineering brother ("Bros"), and critiques the eternal critics ("Carrots"). Even as Lennox talks to others, his advice —banal things like "take one day at a time" and "take a risk just for yourself"— feels like it's being spoken to himself as cues to try to remember. To, y'know, have a good time.
Musically, there's a sense of genuine warmth in these compositions; a sunniness influenced not just by a figurative new outlook on life, but by the actual weather in Lisbon, and the radiant brightness of a newborn child. Yet, for its every sun-flecked guitar line, Beachy multi-part harmony, or unironic phased-in sound-effect (Rollercoasters! Fireworks! Gurgling infants!), Person Pitch feels incomplete —and, knowingly so— in its pursuit of happiness.
Coming out of a period marked by death and depression, Lennox is pursuing something more complex than a simple good-time, and the music, in turn, is full of shifting tides of feeling. The record's every joy is awash in as much sorrow; its every exuberant beat muffled by bubbling noises; its every melody swept into moments of contrasting discordance.
Lennox's productions are strange and ever-changing, eternally undermining his supposed dancefloor-dreams with a random, whimsical, discursive way that stands opposed to the metronomic precision of techno. Person Pitch is, in many ways, defined by this unpredictability; in the way that it never settles into one guise, one feeling. It's an album eternally elusive: immediately accessible yet distant and mysterious, gloriously summery yet sounding like a soft, slow snowfall. It's as messy and amazing and mercurial as a life itself; one man's pursuit of a good time revealing everything about the man, little about the time.
Record Label: Paw Tracks
Release Date: March 20, 2007