james debate
james debate

Monday 12 July 2021

Genre Mashup
Label N/A; Independent
Producers White Panda

white panda nightcub mashup girl talk best new album 2021

White Panda is a name that will be very familiar to partygoers of a certain age group. The Los Angeles-based duo were part of the pop-mash up trend of the late 2000s that saw the rise of artists such as Girl Talk, Danger Mouse and Norwegian Recycling. That trend has died down somewhat in recent years (at least with respect to mainstream releases), with Girl Talk not having released an album since 2010, and White Panda since 2015. So Nightcub marks something of a comeback as well as a throwback to a style of music that was at one point all the rage.

There was always something a bit more underground about White Panda compared to some of their peers, with albums tending to be shared over social media and via bootlegs rather than through more traditional channels. Indeed, Spotify won't even carry the new album due to copyright issues with the samples. So it seems fitting that for their return to the scene, the group have turned to crowdfunding and word of mouth to get their work out there, going so far as to encourage backers to share the tracks over YouTube, social media and any other means available.

Those backers won't be disappointed either. Nightcub is everything a fan of the genre could ask for, an extremely solid party album that will have you grinning from ear to ear throughout. However, for newcomers and those unimpressed by the nostalgia factor, this might come across as a bit too "safe" of a record.

The production is slick and high quality throughout, but never feels like it is trying to push the boundaries of the genre. As much fun as it is, a good chunk of the album's hour-long run time amounts to little more than 1) find two songs that sound kind of cool together, 2) match tempo, 3) let her rip. And that's fine, it works, it sounds good. It sounds like a night out at the club with a good DJ. But compare that with some of the high points in the genre (albums like Girl Talk's Feed the Animals) which exhibit more intricate and creative methods of production: playing with pitch and tempo, breaking tracks down to their constituent parts and piecing them together in such a way that it almost sounds like a completely new piece of music. By contrast, Nightcub is more simplistic and only occasionally demonstrates that level of ambition or craft.

But while Nightcub may not quite reach the heights of the genre, there are moments where it comes close. Some of the combinations, like Britney Spears and Ozzy Osborne, are absolutely inspired. Nine Inch Nails with Ava Max? Who would ever have thought that one up? Some of the editing work, most notably for me on Third Eye Blind's Semi-Charmed Life is extremely well done and materially changes the mood of the original track. It's also great fun just to hear some more recent tracks given the mash up treatment. I never thought I'd be humming along to Kim Petras, but her mash up with Van Halen is fantastic. 

It's a similar story when it comes to the variety of source material. Nightcub often plays it a little too safe, mixing songs that are overused or that we've heard prominently mashed up before (can we stop using that one Eminem track over and over?). But when it treads off the beaten track, Nightcub does deliver some quite shrewd and unexpected song choices (Tegan and Sara, a Smash Mouth song that thankfully isn't All Star).

Nightcub is an album that retreads old ground a little too often, is mostly brilliant when it doesn't, and ultimately is just great fun. This has been one of the musical standouts of my summer and I'm sure it will be for a lot of people.

Must Listen :
N/A; the entire album is one big mix

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