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If you’re a fan of Animal Collective, the pack of indie art-pop weirdos who’ve released a whopping nine albums together, you know its co-founder Panda Bear. The 36-year-old multi-instrumentalist (whose driver’s license reads Noah Lennox) recently released his fifth studio album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. It’s a complex quilt of psychedelic keyboards, samples of animal noises, and loopy, echoing vocals. It has the catchy melodies we’ve come to expect from him, but also pushes the envelope sonically into new terrain. Grim Reaper is the rare album that works as well for heavy headphone listening as it does for blasting out of car speakers, and you’ll find something fresh on every spin.

Lennox made us a playlist of some of the albums and songs that have made him the odd, awesome songwriter he is today. Just like his own albums, it’s eclectic, addictive, and packed with audio gems.

Luomo, Vocalcity

“This is house music-y, but still there’s atmospheric production, where there’s all this stuff kind of oozing around. I heard it when I was working in the office at a record store called Other Music in New York, in the early 2000s. It was influential to me in that it married a more club-music-focused thing with an environmental production technique.”

King Tubby, Roots of Dub

“This was the first dub record I went head-over-heels for. It presented this sort of ‘sound world’ that was really wet, kind of ocean-y and deep—dub music and that production style has been consistently influential for me. My friend Jesse made a recording of his vinyl on tape for me, and I used to walk around Boston listening to it over and over again on a Walkman.”

Echo and The Bunnymen, “Ocean Rain”

“When I met Dave from Animal Collective, he was a big Echo and the Bunnymen fan. I didn’t get it, then, I think. I’m sure hearing him play it a lot is probably how I got into it. The thing that sticks out is the energy flow, where it starts off quiet and then gradually builds. By the end, it becomes this really dramatic thing. And I think the skill with which that transition is navigated was inspirational for me, and exciting.”

Gas, “Pop”

“I heard Wolfgang Boyd talk about being inspired by his memories of being a kid in the woodland countryside of Germany. And how a lot of the times, when he’s making music, he’s trying to conjure those memories and that atmosphere. It might seem the opposite, but it’s not the kind of music I can put on in the background—I gotta fully devote myself to it. I feel like that’s another hallmark of a lot of music I really like. I like to be fully engaged. I don’t listen to music a whole lot just recreationally. I like to be sort of immersed in the sound.”

Bjorn Olsson, Instrumental Music

“There’s a folk-songy, children’s song vibe to a lot of these melodies. They’re like sea shanties. The record feels like a magical little world, a little fantasyland.”

The Clientele, Suburban Light

“I actually wrote a note to them after this record came out, saying that I’d had a really hard time, and ‘Thank you for making this music, ’cause it helped me get through this rough patch.’ And he wrote back to me! He was like, ‘Oh this is such a nice note to get. I’m glad it helped you out.’ It was awesome.”

Burial, “Archangel”

“I remember being so excited when this record was about to come out. He does really cool stuff with the vocals—a lot of treatment, so it ends up sounding alien. But I still find it moving at the same time, which is a difficult trick to pull off. It kind of transports me. And any time there’s a producer or a band where as soon as you hear something, you know it’s them—that’s always really impressive to me. And Burial has something that’s so distinct and unique, that I think is really exciting.”

Jan and Dean, Save For a Rainy Day

“These are monolithic, but very simple, melodies and songs—you hear it once and you can sing it. That’s the target for me with songwriting, to make something that makes an immediate impact, at least on some level.”

Quasimoto, The Unseen

“I read an interview where the producer, Madlib, said that he made this whole record on a Roland 303 sampler. And I figured, if he can make this whole thing on one device, it’s gotta be a pretty powerful machine. So I went out and got myself one. This album has a sweet, laid-back attitude, but it’s also really mental and dense. It has a lot of thorns that stick in your head. That’s a terrible image, but you know what I mean.”

The KLF, Chill Out

“It’s super atmospheric, and there’s something foreboding about it that I like. It feels like you’re traveling somewhere the whole time. They do a lot of pans of sound that scan from your right to your left, and there’s this feeling of things moving past you. And I do a lot of that panning stuff—I think I was inspired heavily by a lot of little production techniques they use on this record.”

Animal Collective
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