Producers in Brian Wilson's era never worked like this, sampling old songs and instruments and spinning them in wheels of sound that seem like they could go forever. Most of this record consists of intricately constructed, heavily layered, and highly repetitive loops on top of which Lennox sings oddly familiar and touching melodies.
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But despite its grounding in guitar pop, Person Pitch isn't likely to be mistaken for the work of a band. It sounds like what it is: one guy alone in his bedroom trolling through music history, picking and choosing bits to make something deeply personal and all his own. The repetition of the music here, though probably engendered by computer, has a strange analog quality. You can almost see the turntables rotating on the opening "Comfy in Nautica", which loops Lennox's sung "ah"'s and handclaps to evoke ritual campfire music, while the deep reverb on his voice puts us in the same liturgical headspace found on his very different acoustic record Young Prayer from The field recordings take an aquatic turn on the track's second half, as Lennox picks up his acoustic guitar and moves the party to the beach, singing "I don't want for us to take pills anymore" to the kind of effortlessly melodic line that once expressed thoughts like "da doo ron ron.
Given the presence of such tremendously catchy pop moments on Person Pitch , the record's indulgences feel completely earned. When the song edges become wispy and shapeless on "I'm Not", which blends Lennox's voice with an indistinct droning synth, the mood and thrust of the album gives the track the appropriate context. Music of such warped processing would be a specialist's item, but as a breather here, before the simple and childlike music-box closer "Ponytail", it feels right.
I still haven't talked about the and-a-half-minute "Bros", the astonishing track that serves as the album's centerpiece. It's here that Person Pitch 's repetition and DJ's sense of timing are most apparent, while Lennox's songwriting hits a melodic peak. The first few bars turn to the golden age of 60s and 70s radio, with some rattling percussion chipped from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and a chiming acoustic guitar that could be pulled from the Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me".
But as the loops pass on "Bros", the song begins to seem like a glorious travelogue, a journey along a path where all the music's influences are visible along the roadside: the Wilson Brothers in their pinstripe shirts, or the queasy phasing and random sound effects-- a subway, people on a roller coaster, a baby crying-- of Lee "Scratch" Perry.
When Panda begins to chant halfway through, we hear an echo of his main band, and when the neo-Latin piano comes in during the latter portion, transforming the track from internally-focused meditation to outwardly-beaming celebration, we get an image of Derrick May's classic techno anthem "Strings of Life" busting into a DJ set to make everyone go crazy.
Person Pitch as a whole-- and "Bros" in particular-- evokes the sunshine of Lennox's adopted Lisbon, Portugal home. And Lennox yanks out similar bags of signifying tricks in "Bros" and "Comfy in Nautica". Here's the point where the review could digress into song-parsing. But much more is at stake in Person Pitch than the reinterpretation of classic s pop music, so droning on about which percussive samples sound like games of table tennis and which ones evoke decade-old Berlin techno inches would wear us both down.
What's striking to me is the ineffable emotional pull that this album, like all recent Animal Collective transmissions, carries. Perhaps nostalgia's to blame: the Wilson-aping and the more general oldies-aping check the acrobatic vocals in "Take Pills"'s B-section -- could be a girl group, could be the Everly Brothers send me back to my childhood, causing me to recall all the emotions therein. But that's a really subjective take, one that's of a pair with those "soundtrack to your own imaginary film" remarks that so many listeners make about instrumental rock acts.
The sound and sense of the melodies are all Lennox gives us, though -- his lyrics are very often obscured by studio trickery. Word has it that these songs deal with a series of recent changes -- marriage, relocation, fatherhood -- in Lennox's life. This tidbit might explain the crying baby in "Bros", but it does little to help me understand how and why Person Pitch affects me.
I can say with confidence, however, that my reaction is one that Lennox and his crew hope to elicit. And felt connection matters alone to the group: when asked about their lyrics, Panda and Avey frequently insist that the emotional bonds listeners form to their mis interpretations of a song's words matter more than the song's actual verbal content. Great pop always speaks in generalities -- that's how it becomes popular.
But I can't help but feel self-centered when I listen to Person Pitch. The album lacks a representational capacity: it fails to show us anything outside our selves.
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