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Panda Riot

Northern Automatic Music

(Saint Marie; US: 19 Feb 2013; UK: 19 Feb 2013)

Chicago-by-way-of-Philly rock band Panda Riot came about when members Brian Cook and Rebecca Scott were scoring short films. Those projects turned into songs turned into this band. And, considering the scope and breadth of sound on Northern Automatic Music, that origin is no surprise. These are bright, melodic pop songs with the long, menacing shadow of rock music. The gossamer layers of “In the Forest (Some Kind of Night Fills Your Head)” butts up against the grinding churn of “Serious Radical Girls”. The distorted yet sweet fury of “Black Pyramids” runs into the spacious instrumental tune “Someday, Someone Will Wake You From This Nightmare”. These songs are dreamy but not just dream-pop, somehow always on terra firma no matter how smudged they get, the hooks clarion clear even in the murkiest of sonic landscapes. Rebecca Scott’s vocals are too charged with life to be airy yet too sweet to be anything but angelic, and her keys plays nicely against the edge of Brian Cook’s guitar. Mix in the tight, propulsive drums from Jose Rodriguez and rumbling bass, and you’ve got a hell of a mix. This is a great record start to finish, one as comforting as it is agitating. It’s like falling into a safety net, only to find the net is electrified. Oh, and you love the charge.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

Panda Riot - Black Pyramids
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