Panda Riot Deftly Mix Dream Pop and Buzzy Guitars ‘Extra Cosmic’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Panda Riot take the DIY ethos to heart. The Chicago-based shoegaze band records, mixes, and self-releases their own albums. Guitarist and band co-founder Brian Cook even makes the group’s own guitar pedals. Their latest LP, Extra Cosmic, is no different, with Cook sitting in the producer chair and behind the mixing desk once again and the result is a continuation of their satisfyingly eclectic mix of pop and swirling distorted guitars.

Thanks to Rebecca Scott’s ethereal vocals (not to mention her deft guitar playing), the band sounds like a mix between Mazzy Star and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Unlike most other albums from the genres, the vocals aren’t buried underneath a barrage of music, but can be heard loud and clear. The band also mixes in influences from the pop, rock and hip-hop worlds. The difference can be heard on the opening, title track a smartly written, earworm that draw on modern and classic pop music influences. “Technicolor,” meanwhile sounds like a remarkable collaboration between The Sundays and De La Soul. The band also adds in a fair number of electronic influences on the record, particularly noticeable on songs like “Glitterati” and “Remote Viewing”. The album closes on the moody “Magic Only,” an emotionally charged track that highlights the band’s impressive evolution. 

This, their fourth full length, keeps the original template of their earlier efforts while continuing to build on that foundation with a slightly more expansive sound. As a result, Scott’s vocals have never sounded so confident. They have kept that deft mix of dream pop and buzzy guitars and added a more emotional punch to the sound, both lyrically and musically. It’s been five years since the release of Infinity Maps, but the band’s core sound still carries over to this record. Along with Cook, Scott and bassist Cory Osborne, the band has added Brian Hilderbrand on drums. 

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