Artists can have it rough. They’re expected to be the voice of our next mood swing, the next time we think “Is she breaking up with me?” and the never ending, “What does it all mean?” The fact that music is an outlet for self-expression and not “my” expression tends to get lost in the discussion surrounding any particular album. That tension between individual and communal experience is even more heightened on the dance floor and in the world of electronic music. Author Jack Kerouac probably put the dilemma best when he said, “I had nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.” British producer Gold Panda also understands this problem and, to put it concisely, doesn’t give a shit.
In a recent interview when asked about the premise behind the follow up to his critically acclaimed debut, Lucky Shiner, Gold Panda shrugged: “I know there’s no huge track like ‘You’ on it, but that was kind of the point. I felt a lot of pressure to do tracks that weren’t maybe as popular—or as pop—as the old stuff, and once I got over the fact that I couldn’t physically or mentally do that music again because I’d already done it—and there’s no point trying to please other people—it got kind of easy.” Half Of Where You Live sidesteps the dreaded sophomore slump by staying true to the impulse that guided Gold Panda’s initial recordings: honesty.
Before a British record label stumbled upon his music online, Gold Panda was cozy working the 9 to 5 rigor at a mundane day job only to go home and enjoy the simple pleasure of listening to records. This is the stage of life during which Lucky Shiner was written. A darling couch-cuddle record where sweet initiation lyrics like “you you you you and me me me me me” could rarely have been written by anyone other than a humble guy in his suburban bedroom bent over an 808 drum machine. Song titles like “Snow And Taxis,” “Before We Talked,” “After We Talked” and “I’m With You But I’m Lonely” read off like first date name tags. The album title itself, which is named after his grandmother, sounds like a dinner date conversation piece. Lucky Shiner was sweet and provincial in concept; it pulled at the heart-strings. How could an album where someone samples their grandmother’s voice not be?
Half Of Where You Live is not going to make you feel like baking cookies with your date. It’s not emotive in that way. The follow up to Lucky Shiner finds the producer being honest about what he’s been up to between Lucky Shiner and now. After touring incessantly with the last record, he’s now writing songs with titles like “Junk City II”, “Brazil”, and “My Father In Hong Kong 1961” and exploring sounds of mystery and exoticism rather than snuggly bedroom thoughts. “Junk City II” and “Brazil” are tracks that use repetition and stuttering beats to evoke the illuminating darkness and bustle of city life. For example “Junk City II” includes samples that bring to mind imagery of exhaust from cars and subways over an agile melody. In this swank and cultural climate is where Gold Panda has found himself recently. Every song on Half Of Where You Live—from the club-ready tones of “Community” to the more subdued pitter-patter of “The Most Livable City”—provides a miniature portrait where Gold Panda has been.
Half Of Where You Live is not any less sincere or personal than Lucky Shiner. The two albums are bookends to a liminal period in Gold Panda’s life, chronicling his transition from nook-inhabiting retail job worker to globetrotting synth poet. The album is an expression of the chaos as well as the allure that’s been his journey thus far; it’s also a record that can make drinking PBRs in your apartment’s living room a more refined hang time.