Tag Archives: Panda Riot

June 11, 2017 — “New Colors” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “New Colors” by Panda Riot (2017, from the album Infinity Maps).

Panda Riot is a shoegaze/dream pop/noise rock quartet from Chicago. They formed in 2007 in Philadelphia and put out a record as a duo. Years later, they ended up in Chicago with a full lineup. I first learned about them when the band submitted their 2013 album Northern Automatic Music to my mailbag. I immediately fell in love with that album and I eventually named it my #13 album of that year.

I also, almost exactly a year ago, featured the song “Helios (June 20)” while they were working hard on the new album. That new album finally came out on Friday, and it met every high expectation that I had for it. I had the chance to listen to it in its entirety while driving out-of-town on Friday, and I knew that I recognized “Helios”. I thought I had just heard it as an album preview, and I planned and promised to feature it in this post. However, I just discovered that the reason I recognized it was that I had already written about it.

There are a lot of bits in this record and in tonight’s song that remind me of My Bloody Valentine. Specifically, I’m reminded of the latest MBV record m b v. There’s a lot of similar guitar effects and production qualities. There’s a parallel vibe, and the same beautiful noise. And, of course, it has to be said that Rebecca Scott sometimes sounds quite a bit like Bilinda Butcher. While this band definitely wears the MBV influence on their sleeve, they’re not a Valentines rip-off band. They’re definitely doing their own thing.

Here’s tonight’s song:
“New Colors” by Panda Riot

The first 35 seconds are quiet. Dreamy and pretty. When the shoe drops, it’s not an overwhelming tsunami of sound. Rather, it’s a really pleasant wave of noise. While I’ve been known to appreciate deafening “noise for the sake of noise”, this works better here. I like that there’s tons of noise, but you can still hear the difference between the guitar, the other guitar, and the bass. Too often with noise, it sort of all melts together into a big chunk. Like a bag of gummy bears left in the car on a hot summer day.

I also really like that the song ends with an even longer bit of quieter beauty.

You can download the album from Bandcamp
. Or Amazon, or whatever place you legally buy and download music. They’ve announced a small tour of seven shows in six cities. It’s like they took the NHL Original Six and replaced Toronto and Montréal with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. No shows down here have been announced yet. I’m still holding out hope.

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.

Our Favorite Records of 2013 from 20-11

Yesterday, I started the countown of my favorite 40 new release albums of 2013. Later, I continued the countdown. We’re halfway there, and in this installment, we’ll get from #20 on down to 11.

As with the other installments, you can click on the album artwork for a way to buy the album.

20)The Darcys — Warring
This is the third album from the Toronto indie rock band, and the three albums are supposed to be a trilogy. The first was the 2011 self-titled album that reminded me a bit of OK Computer. The second was the 2012 boldly interpreted tribute to Steely Dan’s Aja. Both of those albums were given away as free downloads by the band and by their label — Arts & Crafts. They didn’t give this new one away, and I’m having a hard time finding the thread between the three albums, but this is very good. I’m still reminded a little of OK Computer-era Radiohead. With strong doses of electro-indie rock, there’s also a little jazz and a little soul. The songs are “big” and forceful with lots of really lovely, fragile moments. Bull in a china shop. I guess the common thread with those three albums is the big 1970-style production.

19) Veronica Falls — Waiting for Something to Happen
This is the second album by the indie pop/twee quartet from London. When this album came out, I guessed that it might end up in my top five of the year. As much as I love this album, it just got really crowded near the top. Their acclaimed first record was a bit dark and dreary. This one is much warmer and brighter. They’re a more punk-rock version of Camera Obscura. The multi-part harmonies, the clever lyrics, the bounciness of it. It’s impossible to be in a sour mood whilst listening to this album.

18)Lemuria — Distance is So Big
This is the third album from the Buffalo trio. Sometimes sugary indie-pop. Sometimes crunchy punk rawk. Lots of coed vocals with harmonies that don’t always click. I’m reminded of a lot of things, but on more than one song, they remind me of That Dog.
This album and this band have some imperfections. That’s one of the things that I really like about the album. They didn’t airbrush the warts. Warts and all, it’s a great album.

17)Dråpe —Canicular Days
This is the debut album by the dream pop/shoegaze five-piece from Oslo, Norway whose name is pronounced like “draw-puh”. They preceded this album with a critically acclaimed EP and a couple of 7″ records, and they didn’t disappoint with their long player. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff in the mailbag that I would have never known about otherwise. This is one of my favorites from that lot. They’re on a great Norwegian boutique label called Riot Factory, and a sub-label there called Sad Songs For Happy People.
This is sun-drenched dream pop at its best. Slowdive-y in some parts, Cocteaus-y in others.

16) Houses — A Quiet Darkness
This is the second album by the ambient electronic/dream pop duo. It’s a concept album about a couple who find themselves separated after a nuclear disaster. They make several attempts to reunite at designated points along California’s Highway 10. Abandoned houses, and places like that. All of their attempts fail, and in the end the both die. It’s a depressing story, but it’s a beautiful album. I saw this band at Hopscotch, and although they had a very long delay while they tried to get their gear to work, they still put on a good set. You really need to listen to this album from front to back uninterrupted. I love their warm electronics and their marvelous vocal harmonies.

15) Waxahatchee — Cerulean Salt
This is the second album by indie-folk/rock singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield. Back in her home state of Alabama, she was in a punk band with her twin sister Allison. Allison is now in Swearin’ and Katie is Waxahatchee. They both played at Hopscotch, and although I planned to see Waxahatchee, the delay at the Houses set meant that I was 45 minutes behind schedule and I was only able to catch one song of the Waxahatchee set. Still, very good.
While her first album is about a nasty breakup that she went through, this album is a little less personal in nature. Because of her vocal style, I’m reminded a lot of the Vancouver indie duo Drawn Ship. Even the slower songs are energetic, and I love it

14)Wax Idols —Discipline and Desire
This is the second album by the Oakland post-punk/goth quartet. The first album was pretty much a solo effort from frontwoman Hether Fortune. That one is more oriented towards pop-punk, and it doesn’t really tickle my fancy very much. She’s got a full band, and a lot more depth on this magnificent but gloomy album.
The thick bass lines, the heavy tone, the moistened gloomy tone of it all seems like it should totally be from London in the late 1970s instead of Oakland. It’s easy to pick out reference points like Joy Division and Siouxie and The Banshees. Even the early stuff by The Cure.
I missed my chance to see Wax Idols back in the spring. They played near here and I had a ticket, but on the night of the show, I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Hopefully, they’ll be back around soon.

Don’t forget… I’ve mentioned it a bunch of times, but Slumberland Records is having a huge sale on their entire music catalog, so now’s the perfect time to stock up on this and other fantastic SLR records going all the way back to 1989.

13) Panda Riot — Northern Automatic Music
Panda Riot formed in Philadelphia back in 2007 or 2008 when the founding members were working together making a film about dolphins and porpoises. A couple of lineup changes later, they’re in Chicago, and they released their second album Northern Automatic Music. There’s a lot of drum machine and other synthetics, and they do come off as a bit dance-y at times, but it’s really just atmospheric shoegaze-y dream pop with a bit of a beat. The album is meant to “evoke nighttime, UFOs, and pyramids in the sky”. It’s pretty clear from this batch of songs that they’re really into bands like Curve and My Bloody Valentine.

12)Hayden — Us Alone
This is the seventh album for the Toronto indie-folk icon. As a rule, I’m a big Hayden fan, but I wasn’t especially keen on the albums that he released in 2008 and 2009. I was pleasantly surprised by Us Alone, as it got back to what I really like about Hayden. His songs are dark and sad and beautiful. The two albums that I didn’t care for had different production values and seemed really polished. and it felt wrong. With this one, he made a deliberate attempt to make the record sound like a band playing in a room. He played all the instruments himself, just like he did on his older albums. More intimate. More real.
I really like this album, and one of the highlights of it is the song “Blurry Nights”, on which the terrific Lou Canon provides guest vocals. It’s a bit creepy because it’s a song about having a dirty affair, and Lou Canon happens to be his sister-in-law. Here’s another song about having a secret affair

11)Bleeding Rainbow — Yeah Right
This Philadelphia noise-pop band used to be called Reading Rainbow until Carrie Brownstein told them that their name sucked. Bleeding Rainbow is a much more appropriate name for what they’re doing. Huge, fuzzy, noisy songs delivered in a very delicate way. I had never heard of them until I saw them open for A Place To Bury Strangers last autumn. They played most of the songs from the album, which didn’t get released until about five weeks after that show. Female vocals, lots of feedback, pedal stomping, and good old-fashioned noise. Wave after wave of sheer noise. Everything that I like in a noise-pop band. It was one of the first records that I got in 2013, and I knew than that it would end up with a good spot on my year-end list.

There are just ten albums left in the countdown. Stay tuned for those.

04.30.13 — “Good Night, Rich Kids” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Good Night, Rich Kids” by Panda Riot (2013, from the album Northern Automatic Music).

Panda Riot is a dreampop/shoegaze four-piece who currently calls Chicago home. They got started a few years ago when Rebecca Scott (vocals, keyboards) and Brian Cook (guitar) were in Philadelphia working on documentary films. As the story goes, they were working together on the score for some educational film about marine biology. Inspired by some of the underwater sounds, they decided to form Panda Riot.

As a duo with a drum machine and some other electronics, they self-released an album called She Dares All Things in 2007, which created a bit of buzz. Years later, they found themselves in Chicago with a full lineup and a new outlook.

In 2011, they released an EP called Far and Near. Soon after, they signed to the fantastic label Saint Marie Records. If you’ve been reading my posts this week, you know that I’ve just discovered this label and their amazing roster of dreampop and shoegaze bands.

Last summer, the band released a 7″ record “Serious Radical Girls” on SMR, which was gloriously backed with a retool of the same song as done by Dean Garcia of SPC ECO and Blurred City Lights, and most notably, of Curve fame. Although it’s not the song du jour, you should absolutely check out that SPC ECO remix of “Serious Radical Girls” here.

Finally, in February of this year, they released their new album Northern Automatic Music. All of this flew under my radar until the band submitted their record to the mailbag. That was quickly followed by a barrage of other terrific releases from SMR. If you haven’t yet picked up what I’m laying down, this is the third of what will probably be a long series of posts about SMR artists.

The album is packed with lots of lighter-than air, wispier than gossamer moments. It’s also packed with lots of heavy, crushing waves of sound. Today’s song is a little bit of both.

“Good Night, Rich Kids”

After the field recording of the el train and what may be some backwards tape loops, I love the tsunami of sound at 0:15. Then at 0:45, it suddenly gets clean and quiet when Rebecca’s vocals come in. And then again with the pedal stomping and the cacophony through the choruses. I love that kind of organized chaos.

In some ways, I’m reminded of the Philly noise-pop band Bleeding Rainbow.

Get Northern Automatic Music from the Saint Marie Records webstore here.

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