Debates over music formats inevitably break down over convenience versus fidelity. It’s surely not a coincidence that as digital formats began to dominate the market and streaming threatened to usurp ownership of physical formats, vinyl sales have been consistently going up over the past decade. It would seem to suggest that there’s a point at which the cloud becomes too overwhelming—the possibility of being able to hear everything at anytime leaves one with the feeling of having no real connection to any of it. And thus a format that once fell out of favor because of once being an outdated, inconvenient format—something that requires the full attention and care of the listener—begins to creep back in.
Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, is heading in the same direction in 2018. His first release since 2015′s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a vinyl EP. In fact, it’s exclusively a vinyl EP. There is no digital or CD release planned, and the 12-inch doesn’t come packaged with a download code, as most vinyl in the 21st century is expected to. To do such a thing even as recently as 15 years ago wouldn’t merit a double-take, but this is 2018, when fidelity is also expected to be chased with convenience. Simply doing something that was common practice decades ago now seems like an unusual move on the part of Panda Bear, but his vision isn’t so absurd. To hear the five tracks on A Day With the Homies is to be able to absorb it in stereo sound, with the heavy percussive elements and immersive ambience being broadcast from either side of the listener.
As a set of songs, it’s another fine batch of highlights from Lennox. The opening “Flight” is perhaps the most Animal Collective-like of the bunch, its opening whoosh of crickets and wind sounds like a back-porch Merriweather Post Pavilion, ushering in a melody that feels like a technologically enhanced take on a traditional folk sound. Deeper into the EP, however, Panda Bear indulges more in electronics, the droning intro of “Part of the Math” giving way to a heavier pulse of drums and, ultimately, a disorienting chant of “Open your eyes!” There’s a steady torrent of percussion and psychedelic effects in “Shepard Tone,” as well as a proper house beat underscoring the excellent “Nod to the Folks.” And thus the idea of A Day With the Homies as a platter for DJs adds to its format purity.
In a statement released with the EP, Lennox notes that A Day With the Homies is meant to be listened to via speakers rather than on headphones. The subtext seems to suggest that listening via earbuds is even more strongly discouraged. But then again, if it can’t be played on a laptop, then there’s even less of a need to do so. A Day With the Homies is then best experienced comfortably, with few distractions. It’s a wonderful listening experience, so why not make the most of it.