Almost six years ago to the day, Animal Collective released Merriweather Post Pavilion, a stunning career highpoint for the Baltimore psych-pop band. If things have plateaued for them since, the same cannot be said of AC's founding member and drummer Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, whose stock has continued to rise. Instantly gratifying yet sonically adventurous, Lennox's music has lodged itself on the accessible end of the experimental pop spectrum.
His fifth solo effort channels the highlights from his previous two albums, Person Pitch and Tomboy, into a digestible whole. Drawing on themes ranging from love and family to sanity and self-doubt, delivered in his wonderful chorister-meets-Brian Wilson voice, Lennox digs deeply into his box of production tricks for a sample-heavy, dub-influenced, trance-like musical coating.
The first half is bursting with earworms. If anything, Mr Noah and the soaring Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker end too soon after landing their hooks (be prepared to press repeat, repeatedly). The call and response vocals on Boys Latin hit the groove sweet spot, as does Come To Your Senses with its refrain of "Are you mad? Yeah, I'm mad" – both songs bubbling deliciously amongst a whirligig of alien sounds.
Tropic of Cancer signposts a brief change of tempo, its soothing harp arpeggios providing the soundtrack for Lennox's yearning reverie, while textbook chillwave tunes Principe Real and Selfish Gene offer a relatively straightforward conclusion to an otherwise exceptional collection.
Having confronted the impending death of his ill father on the album Young Prayer, Panda Bear Meets… gives the grim reaper a nonchalant shrug.