Though Young Prayer is intended to act as a eulogy for Animal Collective member Panda Bear's (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) recently deceased father, it feels more like a bittersweet celebration of his life than a sorrow-filled reflection. Drawing upon modern classical music (Track 3), tribal African chants (Track 5), traditional Jewish hymns (Track 9), as well as the stylistic imprint of Panda Bear's full-time gig (just a warning to A.C. fans: Track 1 is the closest anything on the album comes to an Animal Collective song), Young Prayer feels like a record the public really wasn't intended to hear - but one we should be glad was set loose.
It's true that none of Young Prayer's tracks have titles and they all kind of float along and into one another, but, surprisingly enough, the album still manages to feel like a strong, unified piece. Lennox's high, solitary voice barely manages to hold each song together, coming across like he could break down at any moment. The effect isn't one of glossy emotional advertising; he's not trying to show how sensitive he is simply to get into the collective pants of the Animal Collective's female fan base. Young Prayer sounds simply like the work of an artist at his most vulnerable, graciously sharing himself, his fears, and his sorrow with the world.
Make no mistake: this album is an intensely, almost unapologetically personal album and certainly one that doesn't try to cater to an audience. As such, there's an air about it that feels like you're listening in on an intimate conversation through a neighboring wall. There's a sense that you shouldn't be hearing whatever it is you're hearing, but with all the beautiful, swirling tones and simple, wordless melodies (often performed either a capella or with just guitar and piano as accompaniment), it's far too compelling to turn away.
The songs may be wordless, but the passion and intent behind Lennox's vision shine through unappeased. Just as his soulful, often quavering tenor emerges from the dismal fog of mourning entirely resolute with his place in the world, the tone of Young Prayer is definitely one of recuperation, but it's not at all desolate. It's more concerned with learning to cope with the harsh realities of the life cycle than to outmaneuver or cast them aside. We die and that's a fact. The very private tracks on Young Prayer act not as lessons but as solace for listeners coping with the loss of a loved lone.
Though it certainly is a record that listeners more accustomed to the happy-go-lucky forest excursions of the Animal Collective might not know what to do with, I believe Young Prayer's legacy will be solidified not in the annals of the CMJ charts but in the homes of bereaved listeners. Hopefully, someone during a moment of grieving at some point down the line might be able to find comfort in the simplistic beauty of Young Prayer.
9.0 / 10
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