These guys are so great! Also whoa, they’re my third Seattle band in a row (this city has been really good to me lately!). This one is on the folk-rock side of things, heavy whiffs of Mumford & Sons for example. All the rest of the bands they remind me of, strangely, are Scottish: Snow Patrol, Frightened Rabbit, the Twilight Sad. Emotional, literate, orchestral indie rock. Do you like those things?? You should listen to this band! They’re also a super intelligent bunch (band leader Eric Herbig has a Ph.D. in molecular biology!!), so there’s a bunch of smart science stuff sprinkled in there too. The songs are real memorable, I’ve found myself waking up with a different one playing in my head every day this week. Something for (kind of?) everyone!
THIS ARRANGEMENT OF MOLECULES
This Arrangement of Molecules, the new release from Seattle, WA’s Pocket Panda, throws entropy to the wind and shows us that random things can come together in beautiful ways. Their meticulously-crafted songs blend strings, synthesizers, driving beats, and dense harmonies into a rich and colorful musical landscape that is never predictable. Drawing from rock, folk, bluegrass, jazz, funk, and minimalism, their prismatic and multi-layered style often takes unexpected turns in the form of complex time changes, polyrhythms, and unconventional instrumentation. Yet this wonderful variety is all anchored to a foundation of joyful musicality and four-part harmonies.
Eric Herbig, the founder of Pocket Panda, was first immersed in art through the world of ballet at age 4. His mother dreamt of having her child become a world class dancer, but Herbig resisted and they settled on piano (which, given his infatuation with Seattle’s rock scene, soon segued into guitar). Tragically, Herbig’s mother would succumb to a rare, fatal neurological disorder. At her funeral a speech was read in which, as her dying wish, she commanded that he go to graduate school and study molecular biology.
In a tale of unexpected paths converging, Herbig honored his mother’s wishes, and strangely enough, this would provide the context for the formation of Pocket Panda. While Herbig pursued science by day, he played music by night, and after 6 years and over 2,000 Craigslist posts Herbig had reined in the talents of band members Jordan Cunningham (vocals/mandolin/guitar), Chris Allen (vocals/bass), Mike Waller (keys/accordion/harmonica/xylophone), and David Cho (violin). Amazingly, the Newtonian apple didn’t fall too far from the musical tree; called “the most educated band in Seattle” by many of their fans, Pocket Panda have a combined 11 degrees among them – including Herbig’s Ph.D. in molecular biology.
On This Arrangement of Molecules, the band explores the myriad forces that wrench people apart – from self-doubt to structural violence – if only to reaffirm how ultimately lucky we are to form the bonds we do, and how even luckier we are to carry our shared dreams to fruition.
This Arrangement of Molecules represents significant depth in both the spectrum of sounds used and the array of ideas presented in the lyrics. Songs such as “Garden” and “There You Go” use the melodic and structural modalities of indie-folk to frame the delivery of stories of lost love. “Baghdad Ballet School” and “Setting Sun” shed the folk vibe in favor of a more edgy and hard hitting approach, befitting the songs’ contemplation of the ravages of war. “Riptide”, a social commentary on excessive materialism, combines multiple time signatures in the verse and chorus. Across the record, Pocket Panda show repeatedly that they are not afraid to deviate from conventional song structures in order to transport listeners into the narrative world they inhabit. This Arrangement of Molecules will take you on a journey that is sonically, thoughtfully and emotionally highly engaging.
RIYL: Mumford & Sons, The National, The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit, Snow Patrol
Start With: 1, 7, 4, 6 FCC 11
Contact me for a download link if you’re a radio rep!