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CD of The Week

Week of 12/05/22

    Panda Bear & Sonic Boom - Reset (Domino)

    In most accounts of the history of “alternative” or “indie” music, the 1960s are basically reduced to brief mentions of The Velvet Underground and “Kick out the Jams.” However, that decade’s broader rock, pop, and soul have all exerted significant influence on many bands and subgenres that dot the Y-Not playlist. Animal Collective are an obvious example with their psychedelic aesthetic, so it is unsurprising that Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) of that band has decided, with the help of producer and former Spacemen 3 vocalist/guitarist Sonic Boom (Peter Kember), to craft a tribute to the sound and vibe of the 60s with one of 2022’s most fun and adventurous albums, Reset.

    Five of the nine songs on Reset are built around sampled loops of the intros to specific songs from the 60s, while the other four try to emulate the feeling of music from that era with touches like handclaps and sleigh bells. It makes for an infectious listen right from the opening song, “Gettin’ to the Point,” which uses an acoustic intro to an Eddie Cochran deep cut as the foundation for an unpredictable, but hooky, sound collage that somehow sounds both vintage and completely novel. Meanwhile, “Edge of the Edge” is a major highlight, hypnotically looping doo-wop harmonies behind Lennox’s quirky lyrics and various buzzes and bleeps. The result is an exhilarating ride of a song that sticks in your head almost instantly. Brian Wilson would be proud.

    Not every song is so effervescent. Kember also adds some vocals in a deeper register to a few songs (notably on album closer “Everything’s Been Leading to This”) that add a sinister vibe somewhat reminiscent of the darker psychedelic rock sound of Love and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.  This variety keeps the album from feeling like pastiche. The only minor hang-up about Reset is with “Whirlpool,” which is a strong vibe track with immaculate production, but feels much more like the second or third-best song on a recent Animal Collective album than anything from the 1960s.

    All in all, Reset is a freewheeling blast that borrows from the past to idiosyncratic, yet accessible, ends. The pandemic may have caused Lennox and Kember to mine their collection of vintage 45s for inspiration, but their lockdown collaboration results in a creative triumph that provides a great soundtrack whether you are joining a crowded gathering or staying safe at home.
    Review by Sol

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