Thursday, March 29, 2007

Panda Bear - Person Pitch

I didn't hear this until just recently. I was skeptical, but after seeing it praised on a couple messageboards I visit and its very high rating on Pitchfork (yes, I still go to that place occasionally), I decided to give it a chance.

I've listened to it a couple times now and my impression is that it's a very agreeable, fun record. The whole thing is filled with bizarro world, gregorian chant-like takes on 60's nostalgia. "Bros" is the definite highlight, with its incredibly simple but infectious melody that takes its time to develop and twist its way into your skull. There are some weaker, more indulgent tracks like "Search for Delicious" that meander without really going anywhere in particular. Still, the sound of the whole album is very unique but it also immediately evokes fond memories in anyone who's ever heard a Beach Boys record (which is pretty much everyone).

There's no question that Person Pitch is infectious. My concern is that there's not an overwhelming amount of depth to it. The Pitchfork review mentions that it draws its repetition and sense of dynamics heavily from dance music. It also mentions a bunch of "microhouse" artists as a big influence, whatever the hell microhouse is. And no, I don't care.

I risk being closed-minded here, but I've never really understood dance music. There's absolutely nothing wrong with making music fun or danceable, sure, but I don't see the point of making music that's only intent is to be danced to. I don't really get where the artistry or skill comes in there. It's formulaic and it seems to emphasize being technically sound over being an actual musician.

So when this pretty minimal, predictable approach is applied to something like Beach Boys' melodies that were infinitely more complex in their original form, it irks me. It seems that a lot of popular music today has had an increasing amount of fixation on nostalgia, specifically 60's stuff. That's fine, but it tends to either just rehash what its emulating completely but miss the essential spark of the original or take some part of the sound to simplify and deconstruct.

And I think that's missing a lot of what made stuff like the Beach Boys good in the first place. Of course when Brian Wilson produced Pet Sounds, he wanted a great sounding record. But he also wanted to make something that sounded both very complex and completely innocent and unforced. He wanted something that could be memorable and grab people's attention right at the start but still hold up after many listens.

I'm not saying that Person Pitch should be compared to Pet Sounds, just that a lot of what makes Pet Sounds a great record is that Brian Wilson was willing to encompass many different ideas that maybe seemed a little contradictory at first in order to find his ideal sound. Person Pitch, like a lot of stuff today, has one aesthetic (albeit a good one), and just takes it to its logical conclusion. That sound is put in the forefront and made much important than the music contained within. It's fun while it lasts, but there's no contradiction - there's nothing to dig into. It's some pleasant bits of noise and then it's over.

And maybe that's ok. But in my mind, it's what separates great music from just good music. I want to see more musicians not be content to stick with just one idea or asethetic, and be good artists who challenge themselves to come up with something original and timeless. I really don't believe that, despite its 9.4 review at Pitchfork, many people are going to be talking about Person Pitch in five years.

1 comment:

Carla said...

Thanks for writing this.