The result is one of the more protracted album releases in recent memory. Following the debut of embryonic material at the Pitchfork Festival and elsewhere last summer—which even much of his adoring public described as shapeless meandering, and often, simply awful caterwauling drone—the last ten months or so have seen a series of seven-inch singles on labels from Domino and FatCat to A-Co's own Paw Tracks and techno stalwart Kompakt as teasers for the eventual release of Tomboy. Panda Bear even drafted Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 fame to mix the single versions into those that appear here, now finally, on Tomboy.
Though much has been made in interviews about finding creative push from acts like Nirvana and J Dilla, Panda Bear's clearest debts still remain to the buoyant, elongated harmonies of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Beneath those very harmonies though, Tomboy largely foregoes the samples and vibrant, almost Lee Perry-deep textures of Person Pitch for more streamlined songs crafted mainly from guitars and synthesizers. The result is a highly atmospheric set of gently psychedelic summer songs that play like some new brand of tropical gospel music, and a record so refined and patient that those seeking the giddy immediacy of "Bros" or "Good Girl/Carrots" are likely to be puzzled initially.
But it's also an album that, as you grow cozy within its deliberate sense of pacing and restraint, begins to feel lived-in and softened by its extended birth. Slowly, you sense its heady mesmerism coalescing into recognizable shapes and patterns, hummable passages and sequences perhaps more than "songs." There are static-waved piano ballads ("Scheherazade") and buzzing Gregorian chants ("Drone") that slow its steady motion to a narcotized crawl; there's even a hippie hip-hop cut ("Slow Motion"). There's the jittery bell-work and flashes of oceanic noise of "Surfer's Hymn" and the liquidy hand-clap dub of album highlight "Last Night at the Jetty." There's wondrous closer "Benfica"—just a rush of wind and sly synthesizer gleams behind Panda's multi-tracked vocal (his strongest vocal performance here, and perhaps to date). If it's indeed hard to cherry-pick the mixtape anchors and go-to barbecue jams so plentiful on Person Pitch, it's also telling that Tomboy is coherent and single-minded enough that it never leaves the listener yearning for those very cuts to appear. Consider it one long beach-bum symphony and playlist the whole damn thing as the heat creeps in.