Early 2007 was a sunny time to be around. The majority of the planet was blissfully unaware of the imminent banking crisis, Britney Spears was hilariously thin on top, and music critics were still basking in rays of brilliance from Grizzly Bears 2006 psychedelic folk monster Yellow House. Then, in March, Panda Bear dropped Person Pitch and the world suddenly took notice. At the time Animal Collective's powers were well documented, after all Sung Tongs and Feels had both been released to critical acclaim. But as an individual artist Noah Lennox was, up until that point, still a relatively unknown quantity. His earlier solo work, Young Prayer, was recognised as a first-rate experimental album but he was still at the point where he could either sink or swim without the support of the rest of the collective.

Since that release a lot has happened. We now live in a world post Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion. It's not just the critics but also the mainstream fans won over in the intervening years that will have been anticipating Tomboy, and it's the grand stature of his last solo album that it will inevitably be compared to.

The impact of this album has been diminished somewhat by the repeated delays and the steady stream of singles emerging in the build up to its release. That and the high quality live bootlegs circulating have meant that Tomboy was not exactly an unknown quantity in terms of songs, but it certainly was with regard to production. First and foremost the album sounds like Panda Bear; it could have been recorded by no one else. The loose song structures, Brian Wilson vocals and the general warping of pop conventions are Noah Lennox signature moves, and Tomboy is packed with them. However, unlike Person Pitch's general sense of movement created from the samples employed and variations in production, Tomboy offers a more consistent theme. The location is firmly rooted to the ocean shore, and you will never be closer than when 'Surfer's Hymn' comes into focus amongst the sound of crashing waves and glitch like xylophone. Noah has always had a voice that suits the summer, and despite the album's more dark moments, like the title track's buzzy 80's synth paranoia, he never wanders too far away from the sun and the seashore.

Despite Noah, it would seem, playing towards his strengths, there are still a few recurring problems. The production does often sound like it was recorded in the corner of a cave the size of a cathedral with water running from the walls. Almost everything is softened by a dense fog of reverberation; this works on many of the tracks like 'Last Night at the Jetty' and 'Drone', but at points it can all become a bit too much. The accumulative effect over the course of the full album is like experiencing a drop in air pressure without swallowing for half an hour. Whereas Person Pitch had a certain crispness about it, all the sharp edges on Tomboy have been rounded off and replaced with toddler friendly padding.

Noah does appear to drift into slightly indulgent territory at times too; 'Afterburner's' running time is a little excessive, allowing almost three minutes of the song to essentially be the fade out. But these gripes are reasonably insignificant compared to the wealth of truly joyous moments to be had on Tomboy. 'Scheherezade' is an ambient masterpiece built upon a recurring piano note accompanied by shimmering percussion, vocals and the sea. 'Benfica' finishes the album on a high note too; taking the essence of The Beatles 'Long Long Long' and blending it with the ambiance of a football game. Lyrically you would be doing very well to remember any lines, even after repeated listens. The lyrics are never really the point with Panda Bear, it's more a question of how they are sung, and throughout Tomboy they are sung beautifully.

The long wait and expectation will have done Tomboy no favours, and although this album doesn't possess the same shot of inspiration that was coursing through 2007's Person Pitch. Tomboy proves that without the support of the rest of the collective, Noah Lennox has no problem swimming. In fact the beach seems to be where he's most comfortable.

Photobucket