A Day With the Homies
Domino · January 12, 2018
Of all of Panda Bear’s discography, the emotions this album evokes are the most relevant to our modern day existence.
Teasing his new album through releasing all five of the songs’ lyrics on social media in November, and then officially announcing the details of the vinyl-only release of A Day With the Homies, Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) was quick to wean out those who would give this album a shallow listening. Having seen him perform the new songs in October at Desert Daze Music Festival, it was almost ominous to watch people dance to the dark lyrics that filled the desert while his grotesquely disturbing visuals dominated the screen behind him. Thumping bass and twisting colors morphing into a female with blacked-out eyes was the backdrop for tripping concertgoers, unaware of the power of Lennox’s words.
The anticipation of going out to buy the record, unwrapping the plastic wrap, putting the record on, and listening to the album for the first time in its entirety while reading along with the lyrics printed on the vinyl sleeve is an experience most do not have in our technological age. This process, particularly hearing the album over speakers and not through headphones, is exactly what Lennox intended.
Being only five songs long, A Day With the Homies cuts right to the chase with no room for fluff or slow psychedelia heard in previous albums such as Person Pitch, which had two songs that are over twelve minutes long. The lyrics and sounds hint at gritty and industrial undertones that mimic the terror of the age we are living in today. Of all of Panda Bear’s discography, the emotions this album evokes are the most relevant to our modern day existence.
In the opening track ‘Flight,’ the wind literally picks up the beat of the song as crickets present a duality between the sounds of nature and the heavy manipulated bass that begins as soon as Lennox’s echoed voice is introduced. The cheerful beat throughout the song makes lines like “Falling asleep at the wheel” and “Took a sock to the socket / We got a black eye” seem like a lively carnival when presented alongside more positively associated lines such as “We got the good crew” and “Tossing out a horseshoe.” The ending of the song at first appears that it’s giving the listener a sweet send off with “All good wishes / Wishes to you” but takes an unforgiving turn with the last few lines that imply peoples’ true, selfish nature, “We don’t share at all / Why are we telling them to share it all.”
Right as the listener is getting used to the white noise of crickets chirping in the wind at the end of ‘Flight,’ a harsh guitar strum comes in like a gong and phases in and out as ‘Part of the Math,’ the highlight of the album, begins. The tension and power builds in the song as a quick tempo commences, and Lennox gradually adds new layers of ample bass and rhythms, keeping the listener on their toes craving for what is next. What begins as a multitude of parts sync together seamlessly with the launch of Lennox’s voice. The irresistible club-like bass is ironically contrasted with the lyrics directly narrating, and seemingly mocking, the listener: “You dance / Get yer cocktail on,” which darkly flashes forward to “Now we’re blacking out,” then briefly after, “You’re dead meat / In a chilling freeze.”
Reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels depicting the meaninglessness that fills our everyday lives in which we attempt to supplement with shallow partying and trivial interactions, Lennox reminds us with satirical lyrics how “We’re all deities / Washed up in a sewage leak.” While we may feel invincible, it is important to remember we are all ‘part of the math’ and have no more value than “An animal / A mineral / A vegetable / An abacus.” The outro of the song is incredibly powerful as a woman repeats the mantra “Open your eyes,” commanding us to be more present and see what is really happening around us while a nostalgic harmonica serenades us to the end of the first side of the record.
‘Shepard Tone’ – an auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower – is a fitting title for the third song, as it’s a very intense sound that creates tension for the listener. The beginning of side two rattles the listener with immediate helicopter vibrations, fast tempos, and mortar-like bass that could be the soundtrack to a warzone. Paired with lyrics such as “Like a stinking bog,” “In the thick of the wicked / There’s a little blood” and a reference to the Watergate scandal with “Deep Throat,” it’s hard to imagine anything but the turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War. Lennox effectively creates a powerful soundscape that represents the anxiety of the era, a feeling that is becoming all too familiar again today.
Seemingly after the war of ‘Shepard Tone,’ ‘Nod to the Folks,’ begins with what initially sounds like the Shepard tone but fades into the sound of a siren wailing and continues throughout the entirety of the song. Gradually, substantial beats are laid over the siren as Lennox’s voice is brought down an octave to create another soundscape: a post-apocalyptic scene in which everything that is happening “isn’t a joke,” but there is nothing else to do but “nod to the folks” in acknowledgement of the chaos that is unraveling.
The fifth and final song of the record, ‘Sunset,’ has an up-tempo that stands out from the rest of the album balanced with deep bass. The song includes some of Panda Bear’s impressive voice inflections that can be heard on previous albums and in his work with Animal Collective, but there are also elements that he had previously not explored until A Day With the Homies, such as incorporating a clear harmonica. Whereas the rest of the songs in the album fade into one another, the album ends fiercely with the sudden stopping of the tempo. Just as the sun goes down and ends the day, the album ends with a strong beat that allows the listener to look forward to the night to come.
Overall, Panda Bear’s A Day With the Homies is filled with dualities, complexities, and layers that require a thorough repeated listening (over speakers) that only gets better as more is revealed. I agree with the decision to make it a vinyl-only release, as I feel much of the power would be lost had I not gone through the ritual of buying, putting on the record, and hearing it through my speakers. Easily distinguishable from his past albums, Lennox pursues a clear sound that results in his best album to date. In the current state of our nation, the emotions evoked through listening to the album are both relatable and apparent.