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Over what has felt like a year (and actually nearly has been...), we've been receiving warnings, hints, teasers, and full-on singles off Tomboy. It's the kind of online hysteria and anticipation that's normally reserved for a Radiohead album (at least before that particular band caught on to the idea of sending out their press releases and albums within the same week). But instead, the record in question is the latest solo release from Noah Lennox, an artist who—despite membership in the increasingly beloved Animal Collective—bears a considerably smaller public profile.

The palpable excitement here acknowledges just how high the bar was set by his last effort, 2007's surprising Person Pitch. That record was a total shot in the dark. A heady intellectual collage of looping sounds and twelve-minute meandering epics, it still managed to deliver an immediate rush courtesy of a child's toy box worth of sugary harmonies and giddy charm. It’s a rare thing when an album is so obtuse and yet so quickly captivating as Person Pitch was. It really did change things, especially when you consider what happened after Animal Collective released Merriweather Post Pavillion in 2009.

Usually when artists reach this point, they do one of two things: stay firm and embrace this plateau, or retreat. Retreat is a strong word, but based on Tomboy, Lennox has little interest in staking a further claim to the high ground claimed by Person Pitch. Sure, the charming harmonies still swirl lugubriously in pools of syrupy reverb. Loosely related lyrics are still repeated in ever-turning trance-like incantations. Found sounds and beats still play under woolly blankets of synths and treated guitars. But the mood is decidedly darker this time around. There’s no ecstatic changing of the guard mid-song as on Person Pitch’s early highlight, "Take Pills"; no epic rhythm jam like "Bros" that ends in a sequence so golden and honeyed, you can practically feel the warmth of the sun on your face.

Instead, Lennox’s statements are shorter and more controlled. He may allow for moments that get lost in their own joy (the ascending "Afterburner" is a stunner), but overall—and for all of its excesses in terms of effects—the record feels concerned with not letting go too much. This approach does, however, morph into other types of pleasure. The title track is a heavy piece of work—commanding and concise, it grows in stature with each play. The beats in "Slow Motion" trip and bump beguilingly into a hiccuping vocal pattern that plays addictive tricks on the mind. And the wistful yearning of "Last Night at the Jetty" says a lot about the state of longing with its melodies (a good thing, considering you’re lucky if you can make out five of the words that he’s singing throughout).

Lennox has often stated in interviews that he’s most happy when his music is made quickly and intuitively—the more belaboured the effort, the worse the end result. Without Person Pitch preceding it, Tomboy is frankly not the sort of album that would be getting the attention it is. But even if it wilts a little in the glare of expectation, it remains an awfully beautiful and charming listen. And an honest one, at that.

Reader Comments (1)

This one didn't have the same impact on me as Person Pitch did. It's ok, but I find the production, i.e., Reverb Attack, very distracting. Songwriting and melodies are still good, though.

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfin2limb

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