Review: Panda Riot – Extra Cosmic
National Music Reviews
Panda Riot = Beach House x My Bloody Valentine + Pinkshinyultrablast
Drawing influence from the ’90s dream-pop outfits that laid the foundation for 2010-era shoegazers, listening to Extra Cosmic feels like reliving a simpler time. Back when the Salt Lake Twilight Concert Series was held at Pioneer Park, all my friends would tie a plaid shirt around their waists as we boarded the last car of the FrontRunner—the one with the brown leather seats—and head toward the city to see bands like Beach House, Youth Lagoon and Band of Horses. Somehow, Panda Riot’s atmospheric arpeggios and accessible melodies evoke this exact nostalgic, comforting feeling. “I’ll never be the one you want,” croons vocalist Rebecca Scott on the title track in an echoing daze. Au contraire, Rebecca—I welcome an auditory journey back to these youthful memories.
This Chicago-based four-piece was created in 2005 by founding members Scott and Brian Cook (drum machine, guitar). Despite being around for a while, Extra Cosmic is only Panda Riot’s fourth full-length record, and technically their second as a full band. Both Brian Hilderbrand (drums) and Cory Osborne (bass) are imperative to the Panda Riot’s full, mature sound compared to earlier tracks. And though the band’s overall sound is familiar, additional edge-giving elements like distorted keyboards—which are filtered through a “death metal pedal,” according to the band’s Spotify bio—freshen the genre and help keep the record from coming off as saccharine.
A melodic mix of indie rock, shoegaze and electronic noise, the songs featured on Extra Cosmic are objectively good—and objectively feel-good, as well. Panda Riot’s swirling instrumentals on tracks like “Technicolor” welcome the grungy, fuzzed guitar on tracks like “E.S.P.” Spacey synth on songs like “Echelon” put the “cosmic” in Extra Cosmic. Trite, rhyme-heavy lyrics like the ones on “Glitterati” (“You can see me with your eyes / When you’ve gone too far you’re blind / But I know that I’m alright”) are reminiscent of Phantogram—notably catchy and unchallenging.
Through Hilderbrand’s breakneck drum beats and underwater-sounding instrumental processing, Panda Riot rides a glimmering wave until the listener is hypnotized. And with how gratifying Extra Cosmic is, I reckon Panda Riot puts on a great live show. The band’s western fans are in luck—Panda Riot will be playing the inaugural Schellraiser music festival the same month their new record is released, alongside nominal acts like the Old 97’s, Houndmouth, Broncho and Black Belt Eagle Scout. –Mekenna Malan
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