Tuesday, December 25, 2007

best album by a one-man band

simply put, i am fascinated by one-man bands, the relatively recent phenomenon that is aided, abetted, and allowed by the mind-bogglingly vast array of noisemaking electronic gadgets, thingys, and doodads available (or, if you’re on a budget, a macbook is probably as good). i am a devoted fan of one-man bands of every style and persuasion, ranging from daniel snaith (caribou), owen pallett (final fantasy), eric san (kid koala) or otis jackson, jr. (madlib), to even geneviève castrée (woelv). each creates in me a feeling a wonder, amazement even, as they systematically assemble songs from scraps, building intensely complex aural structures from single, abstracted fragments. even relative nobodies, like remember remember or alexander tucker, instantly impress me as they build loop after loop, for their discipline and order as much as anything else; i know i wouldn’t be able to keep one rhythm in my head, much less five, six, seven. my ear has always been drawn to progressive, complex songs (i first realized this when i identified [and rocked out to] every part of “found a job”, reveling in the talking heads’s layers and rejecting the sloppiness of the ramones), and while i find that fullest satisfaction is watching these multi-tiered songs constructed in a live setting, there is something immaculate and perfect about one-man band studio albums that can never be reproduced. so, what’s my favorite one-man band album of 2007? pitchfork skeptic though i am, ryan schreiber and i are on the same page about one thing: how fucking awesome person pitch is.

person pitch, the third solo release by panda bear, was very nearly my favorite album of the year, a work of staggering brilliance that compels listeners with its dualism, simultaneously intricate and blindingly simple. panda bear is the bestial pseudonym of noah lennox, a songwriter who has risen to prominence mostly (prior to 2007) due to his work in animal collective, infamous freak-folk progenitors, but striking out on his own might be the smartest thing lennox has ever done. despite my current love of the album, i spent most of 2007 ignoring it. the reason? i am SO not an animal collective fan. i tend to listen to them as much as i listen to bright eyes, the arcade fire, or the eagles, which is to say, never. (side story: person pitch impressed me so much that i even gave strawberry jam a listen; i turned it off halfway through the first song. ew.) but person pitch skillfully avoids the jarring pitfalls and irritating, pointless grating of animal collective by simply ignoring it. the album is melodic more than anything else (nearly to the point of overflow), lennox’s songs woven together by carefully conceived happenstance, with more flavors in the mix than jambalaya. the result is an unendingly enjoyable album, but one that is charismatic and rewarding as well as entertaining.

person pitch is a rare album by any standard. assembled from a smattering of singles, 7"s, and one-off songs, it still clings together with an enviable stylistic cohesion. with some exceptions, lennox's lyrics are mostly so distorted that they are indistinguishable, which really prioritizes the music. one exception is album opener "comfy in nautica," which entreats the listener to "try to remember always / just to have a good time." "comfy in nautica" deserves its popularity; in addition to being the album's best known (and most accessible) song, it really sets person pitch's tone and framework. starting as a cascade of clanking machinery, lennox pares that harshness away to the slow regularity of marching feet and a single, looped choir note that hits every other beat - such is the album's formula, simple and intoxicating repetition.

person pitch is aesthetically divided into two categories, based solely on song length. the album features two epic compositions, "bros" and "good girl/carrot," brilliant works that, together, make up more than half of person pitch's length. despite their length (both clock in at over 12:30), neither feels contrived nor too long - they are performed without haste or waste, the type of songs where the removal of one note would make a profound difference. both are fluid, progressive songs with multiple melodies and themes blending into each other seamlessly. all of these, however, are attributes of the album as a whole, and "bros" and "good girl/carrots" are merely larger versions of "take pills" or "i'm not," expanded. every song on the album is viscerally alive in your headphones, and listening to person pitch on constant repeat doesn't diminish its brilliance in the slightest.

as part of the album's artwork, panda bear helpfully provides a look at his working environment, a menagerie of electronics that belies person pitch's rich, organic sound. though created mostly from samples and distorted sounds, the album is fuzzy and warm, almost lo-fi in its tenderness and aural intimacy. person pitch's formula is a simple, straightforward one: lennox starts each song with a sample, then adds a couple more, and sings on top, often manipulating his vocals, and then adds a couple more samples. analyzing his approach may satisfy some academic thirst for knowledge, but person pitch doesn't need it. the album is a gem, and well deserves the several nods it has received for best of 2007. if you a) haven't it heard yet or b) haven't bought it yet, you are c) missing out. go out and get it tomorrow.

"take pills" & "i'm not"
buy person pitch at paw tracks.

view people party (a fan-made concert documentary of three panda bear
performances in 2007) at eat tapes.

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