Hot Panda – Go Outside

If you’ve ever wanted Dan Bejar to drop the literary references and make a straight-up rock record, this is for you. It’s actually remarkable to think that Chris Connelly isn’t consciously trying to emulate the enigmatic Vancouver songwriter. This is mostly in his pronunciation, as in opening track “One in the Head, One in the Chest,” where he pronounces “interest” in chopped syllables, becoming “in-ter-est.”
Go Outside is successful as a rock record, with catchy guitar-driven songs throughout. In this sense, the pacing is great. Many albums would cram all the most single-worthy songs into the first three tracks of the album. Hot Panda have the audacity to cram one of these songs in at the end of the album, unlisted on the tracklist.
There’s darkness to the album, though you wouldn’t know it by the music. Judged by the music alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a cheery summer album. “Maybe Now?” features bouncy keyboard pokes that seem overly playful. The elastic bass line on the title track gives a similar feeling. “Go Outside” is one of the hallmarks of this balance between dark and light, as we hear the speaker balance his feelings with being optimistic (here, read as going outside, as if going outside were a good thing, anyway). This is really the focus of the album – seeing light through the dark, and trying to make your way through it as best as you can. In a way, this is the cheery Canadian response to Cloud Nothing’s excellent Attack on Memory, released earlier this year. This is encapsulated in the album art of a naked man diving into a pool in the darkness. All in, no reservations, in spite of the darkness. (Mint Records, Devin King

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