The album prominently features the band’s self-described psych-surf-garage-punk sound to such a great result that the four-track record has been on repeat for days.
The album starts with ‘Inner City Oasis’, which opens with the soft, distant click of drumsticks, before plunging into a surf-rock slide as distant, echoey vocals float over reverb-heavy guitars. The song, like many on the album, changes tempo several times, speeding up slightly, then speeding up again as the sparse vocals fade in and out. The drums work to softly speed up the track, pulling it along as the trilling shoegazey guitar races to keep up.
The vocals on ‘BLK 59’ are more punk-infused – vocal duties, by the way, are shared by guitarist Jonathan Walker and bassist Dylan Cardenas, while Maxwell Warner rounds out the troupe on drums. Noisey, almost grungey guitars eventually take over the track as distortion filters over a driving drum beat. The song is easy to listen to, and still somehow manages to maintain that surf-rock feel.
‘High Riser’, meanwhile, blasts the surf-feel on high. Vocals receive the distort treatment, though they’re still easy enough to sing along to: “I get high, I get high / I get a little low / On the street, with my friends / I want the down lo”
Once again, the track picks up and slows down, controlling the pace and preventing the song from getting too mellow or too strong, which is especially important considering the last half of the track is an easy-going instrumental interlude: pleasant, flowing, sweet and dreamy.
Rounding out the album is ‘Suburban Desert’, which revitalizes those distant echoey vocals with more reverb than ever before. The track starts with an urgent clicking and thumping bass drum, before diving head-first into a screeching instrumental that slows to a dream-pop skip.
Screechy trilling guitars fade to a pulsing bass between vocal parts. Overall, the seven-minute-long song is a trippy adventure along the entire dream-surf-pop-rock spectrum, trailing along experimental, and bordering on entirely instrumental at times.
At this point in my first-listen experience, I realized that some of the best parts of the album are those interludes. Pandas in Japan manage to take those sections of what often seems to be blind jam sessions that are only exciting for those controlling the strings, and turn them into beautiful and relaxing waves of sound. They make you forget that they haven’t sung a word in a while. Most bands’ musical instrumentals are boring and forgettable, but Pandas in Japan’s are exciting, oddly relaxing, ever-changing, and wholly memorable.
And, if for no other reason, that’s why you need to pick up a copy of Suburban Desert – Inner City Oasis (you can get it here).
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