Grace Notes: Panda Bear and Death Cab for Cutie

Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world.  We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention.  Each week we will share a video or two highlighting music that we find particularly engaging and meaningful.

Drew’s Picks:

Panda Bear

I have never really been a fan of Animal Collective and so when band member Noah Lennox, who goes by the moniker, Panda Bear, started doing solo work, I didn’t really pay attention. Panda Bear’s 2007 album, Person Pitch, was a big critical if not commercial success—Pitchfork named it album of the year and yet I couldn’t help feeling like I just didn’t get it. There are some fantastic songs on that album (“Comfy in Nautica” and “Bros” are lovely and “Take Pills” is experimental in the right way) but I just couldn’t connect with the album as a whole. There must be something in their sound that I am just not accustomed to. Maybe I haven’t given Animal Collective a fair shake and thus I am biased toward Panda Bear. Whatever it was, my discomfort with Panda Bear has been greatly eased with the release of their new album Tomboy, there are still a few moments when I have to scratch my head but there are so many bright spots that I am willing to overlook them.  The vocals are pitch-perfect and I now recognize that comparisons to Brian Wilson are merited. This album made me want to give Person Pitch a second chance. Jess Harvel, writing for Pitchfork articulates my feelings well:

[Lennox] condensed the sprawl and stylistic shifts of Person Pitch into seemingly tidy songs. The fact that he’s able to make music that’s both otherworldly and familiar-on-first-listen is something that all of his followers would like to achieve, and very few have the chops or inventiveness to pull off.

Highlights: “Last Night at the Jetty,” “Tomboy,” “You Can Count on Me,” And “Surfer’s Hymn” (live video below).

Death Cab for Cutie

Ok you have certainly heard of Death Cab for Cutie, but have you followed them for years like me?  Do you love Translanticism and The Photo Album? Do you realize that though their new albums are good, they don’t touch the brilliance of that album? I realize these are my opinions, but yeah Translanticism will always be the album that got me through college and The Photo Album will always be one of the albums that opened my eyes to a whole other world of music that I was previously blind to. Death Cab is going to released a new album soon, but more than anything this announcement reminded me to dust off two of my favorite albums from my college years. It also made me want to track down Larry—the independent record store owner who told me I should listen to We Have the Facts and We are Voting Yes—and thank him.

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