Modern music is rife with songs of grief, sadness, and despair. Somehow, in the wake of my listening to Panda Bear’s Young Prayer, they all seemed trite. Panda Bear, if you’re not aware, (I didn’t try to rhyme, I swear!) is a member of the psych-folk Animal Collective who released one of the most challenging and rewarding albums of the year in Sung Tongs. Unlike other solo projects in the world of popular music, this is not Panda Bear’s attempt to showcase himself or make it on his own. Instead, it is a short aside, a soliloquy necessary for both his character and his audience.
Panda Bear was born in Baltimore, moved to Boston to attend college, then moved to New York and joined Animal Collective, and now lives in Lisbon, Portugal. In 2002, after the passing of his father, Panda Bear journeyed back to his Baltimore home and recorded in it. Young Prayer was the wonderful meditative and contemplative result. Lasting just under thirty minutes, each track on the album is untitled. In a way, like another untitled album, this could be an acoustic brother of Sigur Ros’s ( ). Atmospheric and astoundingly beautiful, each song is indeed a prayer, Panda Bear’s way of communing with his lost family.
Overlapping chants, handclaps, stomping, various percussion, and quiet acoustic guitar all make themselves present and vital to the prayer. Rather than actual tracks, each one is more of a verse in the prayer as a whole. Panda Bear’s ethereal voice hovers over the lightly strummed angelic strumming and other various delicate and airy instruments. There are definitely passages that mirror Sung Tongs. The closest comparison is the song “Winters Love.” As one of the quietest and shortest songs on Sung Tongs, it could have easily fit on Young Prayer and was quite possibly written around the same time, or at least with the same themes in mind.
Like great writers, Panda Bear has taken his grief and shared it with the world in his unique way, never hitting you over the head with it, merely letting you feel the emotions he portrays with his music. With his loss, Panda Bear has given us a gift, a beautiful and haunting reflection of his and his father’s souls. In a way, Panda Bear’s prayer is tribal and primal, getting in touch with the spirits around us and seeking solace among them. If only we all could be as in tune with nature as he is, maybe we’d all be okay.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs
Sigur Ros – ( )
Campfire Songs – Campfire Songs