June 9, 2016 — “June 20” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only watch one music video tonight, make it “June 20” by Panda Riot (2016, from the forthcoming album Infinity Maps).

Panda Riot is a shoegaze/dream pop quartet from Chicago. Back in April of 2013, I featured their song “Good Night, Rich Kids”. I also named their 2013 sophomore album Northern Automatic Music my #13 album of 2013.

A lot of the bands in the Chicago shoegaze scene are interrelated, and that’s the case with Panda Riot and another of my favorites: Lightfoils. Panda Riot bassist Cory Osborne also plays bass in Lightfoils, whom I’ve written about numerous times. Included in those writeups was the time that I called the Lightfoils album my second favorite album of 2014.

There’s some really obvious influence from My Bloody Valentine and some of the other 1990s UK shoegaze giants, but unlike the Valentines, Panda Riot doesn’t let the wall of sound cast its fuzzy shadow over the vocals. Nor do they bury the vocals. They know that there’s no reason whatsoever to cloak Rebecca Scott’s lush, dreamy vocals. They’re much more up front, where they can shine as brightly as the super-shoegazey guitars.

They got started as a Philadelphia two-piece when Rebecca Scott (vocals/guitar/keys) and Brian Cook (guitar/drum machine) were working on documentary films. As a duo, they self-released the 2007 album She Dares All Things. Later, they moved to Chicago, Osborne (bass) and José Rodriguez (drums), and released the Far and Near EP in 2012. They signed to Saint Marie Records, and in 2013 they put out the aforementioned Northern Automatic Music. I used to get a lot of promos in the mailbag from that label, but with that Panda Riot record, I got something directly from the band to the mailbag. It was a no-brainer for me to post about it.

I knew that something was up with Panda Riot. I was aware of the fact that they had new material. I knew that a new record was somewhere on the horizon, but I didn’t know any details. A couple of days ago, Sounds Better With Reverb released one of the details with this video

I absolutely love it. Scott’s vocals are terrific, and lighter than air. The guitars are perfectly gazey. Those elements are dream-like, while Osborne’s bass and Rodriguez’ live drumming keep us from drifting off into a very peaceful slumber.

They already sound like MBV, but this video even looks like it ought to be an MBV video. Shadows and light, layers upon layers of video, bits of monochrome interspersed with vibrant colours… All of it. Everything looks kind of acid washed, and that’s kind of brilliant.

All we know is that the forthcoming album will be called Infinity Maps. We don’t know the release date, and we don’t even know if the band is still affiliated with Saint Marie Records. Those details will surely be emerging soon, and we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of the new album.

In the meantime, Panda Riot is about to begin a micro-tour of the Pacific Coast. Starting tomorrow night (June 10) in Los Angeles and ending next Tuesday (June 14) in Seattle. Hopefully, there will be some east coast shows as well.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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