Her Space Holiday: XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival

The first in Her Space Holiday's new folk-pop direction, this album puts Marc Bianchi's songwriting talents on full display as he captivates your ear with toe-tapping, playful melodies.

Her Space Holiday

XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival

Label: Mush
US Release Date: 2008-10-07
UK Release Date: Available as import

Like RJD2 before him, Her Space Holiday mastermind Marc Bianchi has ditched his electronic side for structured, conventional songwriting on XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival. Gone is his depression-drenched past. In its place is a more upbeat and poppy sound. Armed with an acoustic guitar instead of a computer, Bianchi has assumed a new persona, XOXO, Panda, and enlisted a backing band primed to play his take on indie-pop, which clearly draws from contemporaries like Of Montreal and others. But this isn't his first turn from one genre to another. Before recording as Her Space Holiday, Bianchi took part in California's early '90s hardcore scene as a member of Mohinder and Indian Summer, both of which have been defunct for years. So it only makes sense that he would jump from hardcore to electronica to indie-pop, right? If this album is any indication, the answer is more of a yes than a no, though Bianchi still has work to do if he wants his alter-ego to get anywhere.

Don't get the wrong idea. XOXO, Panda is still an album worth hearing, just don't expect anything life-changing. Instead, get ready to smile, sing along, and maybe even dance to most of the tracks here. Opener "The New Kid Revival" is the very definition of folk-pop, as handclaps fill the air behind Bianchi's monotone but cheerful singing and acoustic guitar strumming. As the title-track, it's also his chance to introduce himself and make a proclamation to any naysayers: "If they tell us that we're doing it wrong / We'll just turn up the sound of our songs". His child-like glee rings true on other cuts as well, like the insanely fun "No More Good Ideas", and "Sleepy Tigers", which falls in line with "The New Kid Revival".

As the album progresses, though, the rinse-and-repeat feel of some tracks can grow frustrating. Otherwise enjoyable songs like "The Telescope" and "The Year in Review" sound more like acoustic takes on Of Montreal b-sides. And that also applies to "The Heartbreak Moment", a cute little number about lost childhood love that ends up going on for too long. Others, like "One for My Soul (Good Night)" and "My Crooked Crown", are simply decent but not great. Tracks like these also show off Bianchi's less-than-stellar vocals, which hardly change throughout the album. He sings much like a stoic Kevin Barnes, sans any range and emotion.

Bianchi and friends are truly at their best when they mix straightforward pop with some experimental touches, like the banjo on "The Truth Hurts So This Should Be Painless". The plucking of the banjo doesn't dominate the song, but it adds another layer. The chorus is also one of the most well-crafted hooks on the record. "The Boys and Girls" will find its way onto your morning playlist, particularly because Bianchi sweetly sings "good morning, good morning to you" as alarm clocks and jackhammers sound off. It also demonstrates his talent for crafting a slow-building track, beginning with subtle acoustic guitar before hitting a grand scale. Another instant favorite is "Four Tapping Shoes and a Kiss", which sounds very much like a Jens Lekman ballad at first. But then it veers off that track and becomes playful and toe-tapping like the others. In terms of a broadened and developed style, however, "Two Tin Cans and a Length of String" easily wins the contest. Among other instruments, it features huge crashing drums and a glockenspiel, both of which add more substance to the track.

When the album concludes with "One for My Soul (Good Night)", it hits you that XOXO, Panda really could have used some more variety. A tonal change in Bianchi's vocals, for example, would have helped. And a few tracks could have been left off to create a leaner, stronger collection. But as a debut of his new sound, the album stands as a strong showing of his overall talent. The fact that he can switch up styles so frequently and make solid records says something special about Bianchi. Let's just hope he spices it up more next time.






Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.