Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Bradford Cox is such a controversial, divisive figure in the indie world. Easy to forget, that is, if you stay away from blogs, and just listen to the music. He’s opinionated, to be sure, isn’t afraid of scorn and posts TONS of free music on his own personal weblog. But, listening to things like Logos, that all falls away pretty easily, revealing an interesting (understatement), talented (ditto) musician with a deep love of Animal Collective (admitted often with adoration) and shoe gaze.
But, even Logos came with its own set of controversy. All the way back in the faraway dark ages of 2008, Cox unwittingly left an extremely version of the album in an open-to-the-public downloadable folder on an upload site. According to posts on his blog and in interviews all over the place, he considered just letting that be the end of Logos, letting the half-formed version die. Thankfully, though, he brought the album back, injected it with more expansive sounds than ever before and involved other great musicians to fulfill his full vision.
From the opening saccharine shudders of “The Light That Failed”, those influences I mentioned above aren’t going anywhere. The looped, jingling guitar and bells glide by smoothly, spacy enough, yet sufficiently airy and lilting. The dual vocals, one heavily wah’ed (reminiscent of Animal Collective’s “Visiting Friends”), the other a charming falsetto, play off of each other masterfully. The oddly familiar “An Orchid” follows, lolling on acoustic guitar and Cox’s insistently moaning vocals.
And then, friends, comes the much-discussed, Internet-loved duo between Cox and Noah Lennox. That’s right, that Noah Lennox. Panda Bear, one fourth (or is it officially third, yet?) of the Cox-loved Animal Collective. Honestly, the track sounds like it fell off of Person Pitch or Merriweather Post Pavillion and fell into Cox’s lap, but really, that’s just a testament to both a)how deep and palpable his admiration and knowledge of AC is and b)the amount of talent Cox has, to be able to so perfectly reproduce the sound and feeling. The track, which goes by “Walkabout” (the title of which initially had me jumping to the AC track “Bearhug”, which bootlegs often titled “Walk Around”) is nothing short of sublime. The chorus of “What did you want to see? What did you want to be when you grew up?” has that perfect blend of anxiety about being an adult and embracing child-like enthusiasm that marks so much of Panda Bear’s material. The looped, chirping synth line and drum beat lope about warmly as Cox and Lennox harmonize and swoon in a manner the (get ready for the cliché/annoying AC/Panda Bear sound comparison) Beach Boys would be proud of.
A large chunk of songs follow that are slower, mellower and less engaging. They’re not bad, to say the least, but following an act like “Walkabout” is tough. “Shelia” is the closest the album comes, a confounding mixture of alarmingly normal instrumentation and music, a very pop-friendly hook and some possibly-depressing-possibly-uplifting lyrics. “We’ll die alone, together” Cox repeats after first insisting that no one wants to die alone. Is he saying that their togetherness overcomes the aloneness, or is he saying that no matter if they’re together or not, they’ll die alone. Probably the latter, knowing the track record, but I won’t assume so. After all, this is a new, “bored with introspection” Bradford Cox.
“Quick Canal”, featuring Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, is a seven minute, chugging, psychedelic piece that sounds fit for Cox’s other band, Deerhunter, as much as it does for Atlas Sound. “Kid Klimax” is intriguing, a strangely pop drum n synth beat that Cox’s distorted moans of “Oh my god” can’t keep from sounding decidedly un-Cox. The rest of the album passes by with a sugar-rush of distortion, synth, and a continuously expanding personality. The closing title track could be described as bouncy, even fun. In the end, Logos is an interesting look at Bradford Cox’s personality this week, but with the way he releases music and keeps talking, who knows where he’ll be next week. Here’s to hoping it’ll be something as good as “Walkabout”.