Sunday, September 11, 2011

REVIEW// Panther and the Zoo: More Fun

     Just want to start by saying that I love the art that Panther and the Zoo sticks on their albums, no more so than on 'More Fun'. I was first exposed to Panther and the Zoo way back in 2009 when they dropped their first EP, 'Think About it Not Exploding'. It was a nice little tease from the Auckland outfit that was pleasing, but at the same time hinting at something much bigger. November 2010 went ahead and threw out a single from a 'forthcoming album', and finally, nine months later, we're handed 'More Fun'. A nine track collection, we're given a larger chunk from the Panther and the Zoo cake, but cleverly, not quite enough to satisfy our hunger for more. Graham Panther, the lead singer, songwriter and chap who shares his name with the band, writes some truly brilliant stuff. His vocals are quietly confident, oozing a comforting, mellow tone and matching the simple percussion and humble guitars perfectly. There is nothing too fancy or overdone here. The group knew what they were capable of, worked on that and the end product has come out sounding undeniably effortless. There isn't much complication to the record, but the band seem to have done this on purpose rather than due to a lack of talent. It is very easy to listen to 'More Fun' without giving it all your attention, which is really my only complaint. Give it one hundred percent though, and you'll be rewarded with something all the more well-crafted and emotional. This is quiet music for the thoughtful, and I love it.
     'Wake Up' sets the tone for the rest of the album, with classic Kiwi guitars and Panther's gentle vocals lulling you into a sense of unadulterated calm. 'Do Whatever' is faster, but no less soft. "I'm working hard to be an optimist" goes one of the lines, but things don't sound miserable or depressing. Panther seems to be reflecting on the past in order to move into the future, and "it's working better" than he thought. "I just don't think I'm in a place for this kind of thing / surely you have other mistakes you could be making" marks the start of my favourite track on the album, 'Don't Think'. The sounds here are just so wonderful and thoughtful, musing on life in a manner very inspiring. Wry lyricism is another element to Panther's writing that strikes a chord. "To be honest I'm hung up on my ex and I'm afraid what we might do next I might not be at my best" goes 'Maybe You Get What You Want' before the slow builds and harmonised backing of 'I Really Want to Do This'. The penultimate number is the longest, and as such the Canadian outfit feel a little lost within the extended instrumentals, but this fall-back is soon caught up again by the title track, which closes the album. Graham offers some of his most smile-inducing lines in these three minutes, with the most memorable: "lately I've been thinking too much / it's not necessarily you, but it's definitely not me" another personal favourite of mine.
     All in all, 'More Fun' is great for sitting back after a relationship has gone down the pan, or simply for a bit of down time. Nine tracks isn't enough to quench the desire for more of Panther and the Zoo, but in anticipation for their next release, I'm going to listen the notes off of this record! Stream 'Don't Think' below, and buy the album over here.