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Rachel Ledesma

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Rachel Ledesma (RachelLedesma)

  • Email: ledesma@chapman.edu
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  • Registered On :2018-06-05 20:39:18
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  • Author ID: 298

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Whether as a member of Animal Collective or a solo artist, Panda Bear works at the nexus of collaboration and isolation. It’s a tricky spot to pin down. With Animal Collective, it’s seen in the communal production and heard in the lyrics. With Panda Bear, it’s experienced. Lisbon-based Noah Lennox, the man behind Panda Bear, does almost everything himself, from the mixing to the engineering to the performing. Yet Lennox is no stranger to bringing co-producers (Rusty Santos), co-arrangers (DJ Lizz) and musical collaborators (Dino D’Santiago) into the mix. It’s part of the process, one that has resulted in ten studio albums as part of Animal Collective and four solo albums as Panda Bear, Lennox’s sound evolving along the way. With Buoys, the latest Panda Bear album, Lennox has found a new sound, connected between togetherness and intimacy.

It begins with texture. While Lennox’s songs tend to focus on memory, nostalgia or imagination, he always creates a sense of space. His reverb-heavy soundscapes are layered with lush instrumentation and vocals. But with Buoys, the space is much more bare and not as densely packed. It’s weightless and light, leaving much more empty space. Filling this is Lennox’s own voice, never before heard so clearly. Through most of Panda Bear’s solo albums, Lennox has used his voice as an instrument, stacking his vocals until they sounded disembodied and indistinguishable from a guitar strum or drone. In Buoys, Lennox’s voice takes the center stage, loud and clear though filtered through auto-tune, which strangely reveals more than it conceals.

Alongside Lennox’s raw vocals is acoustic guitar, which has come to be an extension of Panda Bear himself over the years. Most Panda Bear albums have grown out of acoustic guitar, developing into electronic experimentalism or atmospheric techno. While Buoys may be Panda Bear’s most electronic-sounding album, the acoustic guitar’s presence never falters. It’s the skeleton of the album, tying everything together, be it the samples of crying or R&B-inspired percussion.

The albums sounds as intimate as its subject matter. As Panda Bear, Lennox has explored the intimacies of his family—from his late father to his wife and children. In Buoys, the intimacy is of a different kind. Lennox’s lyrics are vague yet vulnerable. “I’ll go when I wanna go, have to go/blow that steam,” he sings in “Token.” In another turn from previous works, Lennox has let go of exploring his personal experiences for the intricacies of human existence. “Us, the frustrated crowd, so vile,” he laments in “Dolphin.” But by examining the commonalities shared between humanity, Lennox goes deeper than he has gone before, uncovering and examining the darkest parts of the psyche.

However, as in all Panda Bear albums, motifs reveal themselves. The concept of a screen pops up in the album’s first seconds, showing up later in “Inner Monologue,” an emotionally tense track suited for its title. The word slap also appears throughout the album, first next to “jelly ass,” then next to “cheeky.” But it is the image of a crowd, whether mentioned directly or otherwise evoked, that Lennox refers back to again and again. If only for a second, he slips away into the crowd, but by being surrounded, he is left truly alone. It’s a feeling everyone can relate to and was intended that way. It’s Lennox’s and the listener’s chance to both hide and reveal.

At just 31 minutes, Buoys is one of Panda Bear’s shortest albums, boiled down to the essentials, cut to what is needed. And while most Panda Bear albums tend to move in various directions, Buoys moves in one, step-by-step, sound-by-sound. It is not specific, yet deeply intimate. It is Lennox alone, yet filtered through the influences of trap music and traditional dub music. It is to be listened to in one sitting, yet require repeated listening. It is Panda Bear moving in a new direction, yet evoking the past. It’s Lennox finding himself, both as Panda Bear and a human being.

Noah Lennox

 

“I used to wake up and dread what I was doing.” The first line from “Tournament Hill,” the latest single from Joseph Flores, otherwise known as Temporex. A delightfully groovy autobiographical tale of a state of mind and a time in life Flores found himself in not too long ago, the track is an upbeat addition to the experimental collection of pop sounds that is Temporex. From mentions of King Krule and Prince, “Tournament Hill” is a look of the world through Flores’s eyes, which 2017’s Care solidified as a new and exciting perspective. 2019 proves to be just as promising for Temporex, who has made his way over the hill grooving.

Listen here.

“Just Like My” is the third single off of the upcoming Helium, Peter Sagar’s fourth album as Homeshake. The single follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, “Like Mariah” and “Nothing Could Be Better,” taking on a textured soundscape that’s unlike any of Homeshake’s previous sounds. It’s to be expected from Montreal-based Sagar, who has experimented with everything from indie-pop to R&B. Yet, Sagar’s perspective, his attention to small details and quiet moments, remains the same. “Guess it’s been a few days now/Since I left the house/Should be out about,” Sagar confesses. The vulnerable remark melts into the dreamy background, where feelings of isolation meet feelings of content. It’s soothing, groovy and telling to what can be expected with Helium come Feb. 15.

Listen here.

14 years ago, Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan met in London and recorded an EP about 14 minutes long. At the time, Animal Collective had just released 2004’s Sung Tongs, another change in sound for them, and British folk legend Bunyan had only recorded one album: 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day. Their collaboration was unexpected to say the least; Animal Collective’s style was constantly evolving, while Bunyan’s mysterious presence as an artist had remained the same for decades. Yet, the result of their pairing proved that Animal Collective and Bunyan were one in the same, feeling, thinking and noticing the smallest details of mundane life. Entitled Prospect Hummer, the EP is the meshing of minds and sounds, a little piece of magic that has lived on since Bunyan and Animal Collective’s inspired work together in 2005.

Prospect Hummer opens with Bunyan softly whispering “Stay,” immediately followed by warm guitar strumming, layered over itself again and again. Bunyan’s voice is fragile and soothing, almost as though she is telling us a childhood memory, a secret, a prayer. The atmosphere of nostalgia is enveloping. The lyrics are simple and few, yet alive and pulsing. Half-way through “It’s You,” Bunyan asks, “What’s going on?” joined by the rest of the band as they echo her vocals and strum away. It’s light and airy, mesmerizing in every way, like the soundtrack to a late summer night’s dream.

If “It’s You” is a dream, the EP’s namesake, “Prospect Hummer,” is the time before sleep. Bunyan sings of a quiet bedroom, of ladies across the hall, lit candles and a cat whose only friend is his food bowl. Bunyan’s vocals are sweet, her perspective is charming and once again, we are transported back in time. “My heaven is all around me,” Bunyan sings toward the song’s end, her voice delicate but certain, fading off into sleepy guitar strums that finally fall silent.

We are then swept away into “Baleen Sample,” five minutes of dreamy instrumentals and strumming guitars. It sounds like wind, like rolling waves, like movement. Bunyan’s voice is gone on this one, but her energy speaks through the chords. At times, a whistling sound effect sounds like her: faint yet captivating, saying so much with very little.

The next and final track, “I Remember Learning How To Dive,” begins with approximately 23 seconds of a rhythmic tapping beat, then joined by Bunyan’s cheery voice and playful strumming. The song takes off from there as Bunyan recounts a childhood memory of jumping off a diving board. “I had to go/To the end of the board/And distract myself.” Childhood fear is swept into childhood jolly as Bunyan and Animal Collective collectively sing “wheeeee.” It’s cathartic, fun and reminiscent of the mixed up pleasures and pains of being a child. While the view from the top of the diving board may be daunting, Bunyan knows the only way is down and that the only option is jumping; the same goes for growing older and making music. For when your fingers hit the water, you’ve done it. So Animal Collective joins Bunyan, collectively singing the song’s last lines in unison, jumping off the board together and hitting the water at the same time.

So Prospect Hummer ends, just mere minutes, yet capturing timeless moments and memories. Simple and breathtaking, the EP is folk music at its finest and most experimental, showcasing a union between Animal Collective and Bunyan that has lasted far beyond the EP’s brief runtime, cementing folk’s past in its present, and its present in its past. Thus, the magic of Prospect Hummer will live on for another 14 years, as though Animal Collective and Bunyan collaborated just moments ago.

 

Who loves the scum? That answer might surprise you: not everyone. So claims The Grolwers on their newest single, ”Who Loves The Scum?” Fuzzy in all the right places and equally garage as it is surf, the track is The Growlers through and through. Produced by frequent collaborator, Julian Casablancas, and Shawn Everett, the track is a punchy addition to 2016’s City Club. And like all of the party band’s songs, “Who Loves The Scum?” Is groovy without being hollow, poppy without being expected. As Brooks Nielsen sings, “See the change round the bend/Oh it’s not the end.” We can’t wait to hear what The Growlers have in store for us next.

Listen here.

“Seville” is the latest single from lo-fi Australian duo, S U R F I N G, one of the vaporware genre’s most promising musical groups. Blending dreamy melodies and hypnotic textures, their sound is nostalgia embodied. Founded in 2011 by Penny Van Hazelberg (vocals/synths) and Leroy Honeycomb (guitar/bass/synths), S U R F I N G has slowly but surely grown a dedicated group of listeners, most of which discovered the band online. Yet S U R F I N G transports the listener to a place far beyond the Internet. The effect is magnetic, heard nowhere better than in “Seville,” a song which makes five minutes seem like forever, and forever seem like a second. It also marks the beginning of S U R F I N G’s new sample-free sound which includes original compositions. It’s a perfect dreamscape that never gets old.

Listen here.

“Don’t you want to worship?” The first words off BRONCHO’s fourth album, Bad Behavior, alluringly sung by bandleader, Ryan Lindsey. “All Choked Up” is the opener for the indie rock band’s latest release and a fitting welcome since 2016’s Double Vanity. BRONCHO fully embraces the title of Bad Behavior, delving into themes of sin and vice hidden from plain sight yet lurking in the shadows. While the topics are morally messy, BRONCHO’s music is tight and energetic, revealing just how far the band has come since their start in 2010 and how expansive their vision as a group is. “I really really wanna, I wanna get choked up,” Lindsey charmingly sings toward the end of “All Choked Up.” We can hear him smiling through his teeth.

Listen here.

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Just before the chorus of “These Dreams,” Nancy Wilson turned to look at Liv Warfield, shaking a tambourine with her eyes closed, and smiled. She then closed her own eyes and sang the words that took the song to every top chart back in 1986: “These dreams go on when I close my eyes/Every second of the night I live another life.” When Wilson reopened her eyes, Warfield was still dancing and now so was the crowd.

On a chilly night in early December, the Irvine Bowl opened its doors for KXMas, the only public event that occurs in the venue besides Pageant of the Masters. The atmosphere reflected this sense of only for tonight—like the amphitheater was open just for those strolling through its premises. Crowds gathered around inflatable snowmen and food trucks, some wrapped in blankets, others holding warm drinks. Scattered conversation of holiday preparation and plans melted in with the sound of carolers and applause. But talk of the future soon turned to reflection of the past, of the “good old days” when rock and roll was everywhere. Because the amphitheater doors would soon open and Nancy Wilson of Heart, a band which defined a generation, would transport everyone in the audience to a time when rock and roll was still being defined.

The definition is understood in the aftermath: the bands which followed Heart, two of which opened before Wilson, both of which were fronted by women. The first was Gothic Tropic, the indie pop brainchild of Cecilia Della Peruti, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has toured with the likes of Beck and Charli XCX, but now tours with her own band performing her own music. That night, she eagerly took the stage, her personality as alive as the guitar in her hands, playing tracks off her recent debut and tracks not set to release until the next year. Between songs, she spoke of her hometown, New Jersey, slipping into an exaggerated accent most likely compiled from various aunts and grandmothers. She then spontaneously performed a brief, spur-of-the-moment Christmas song with improvised lyrics that had the audience belly laughing. “We’re Gothic Tropic,” she said before exiting the stage with her band, leaving a magnetic energy behind.

Up next was La Sera, originally the solo project of Katy Goodman turned duo with the addition of musician and Goodman’s spouse, Todd Wisenbaker. Together, they have created an alt-country-influenced sound, blending elements of dreamy ‘50s pop and sweet melodies. The result is distinctly Californian, reminiscent of palm trees and endless summer, scenery the band based in L.A. is used to. The pair, joined by a drummer, settled into stage immediately, Wisenbaker strumming away as Goodman bounced around on stage, her fiery red hair moving along with her. They, too, reflected on hometowns, in Goodman’s case, also New Jersey. “This one goes out to Walter,” the couple said before dedicating a song to their son. The audience cheered, shouting back “Walter.” Whether or not their son heard the song from backstage in the dressing room, Goodman and Wisenbaker looked thrilled, jumping into the song by both shredding on their guitars.

Before long the moment arrived for Wilson to take the stage. Yet she wasn’t alone. Joining her was Roadcase Royale, the band she formed with Warfield, a longtime Prince collaborator, blending soulful R&B with smooth rock into something entirely new yet familiar. Playing songs off the band’s 2017 release, their sound was clean and captivating, the result of two minds and four ears who have both made and experienced music history. Wilson paused between songs to switch guitars, to introduce her band, to speak of music, to reminisce on memories and to touch on what it means to be alive in 2018. She then let the music do the talking, covering Foo Fighters’ “No Way Back.” “I’m fighting for you, pleased to meet you, take my hand,” Wilson sang. From the look on her face it was clear she meant every word.

Wilson went on to cover such greats as Tom Petty and Pink Floyd, moving the entire audience as she gracefully paid respects to the musicians that both influenced and drew influence from Heart. It was an act only Wilson could do. The audience rose to their feet and cheered, happy to hear songs from their youth made alive again. They couldn’t help but dance like no one was watching. But Wilson was. “We got some really good dancing going on here tonight,” said Wilson.

The dancing was echoed back on stage by Warfield, who embodied the lyrics she sung and Wilson’s guitar riffs. Warfield presented an authenticity so vivid and exciting, even Wilson couldn’t keep her eyes off her, especially when it came to covering Heart songs. No, it wasn’t Heart exactly, but it was the same in energy and spirit. It’s what Wilson wanted. “We want it to sound different so you don’t think you’re shopping at Ralph’s. No, this isn’t Ralph’s,” said Wilson.

The lyrics came alive with Warfield’s powerful vocals and Wilson’s skill as a guitarist. From “Silver Wheels” to “Crazy on You,” Wilson and Warfield had the entire audience on their feet, moving along to the songs that defined a generation of music lovers if not an entire decade. The whole time Wilson had a smile on her face that reflected a deep joy in seeing her old songs refreshed with new emotions and character. It was a smile that stayed on stage even when Wilson left it and the audience roared for more.

Then, from the back of the amphitheater arose a word that quickly swept through the entire venue: Barracuda. Five chants later and Wilson was back on stage along with the rest of her band. With a new guitar in hand, Wilson gave the crowd what they wanted, performing the iconic riff perfectly as the audience hummed along. Warfield grabbed a mic and began singing, giving her all into every single word. The audience performed backup, echoing the words and clapping along to the beat. By the time the song was over, hardly anyone realized the moment was gone.  “I can’t believe that just happened,” said an audience member. Neither could Wilson as she thanked the audience and reminded them to be kind to each other, happily staring at her band members before finally exiting the stage.