Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Hot Panda Experience

Looking for the next “hot” band? There’s already Hot Hot Heat and Hot Chip. Now welcome Hot Panda. They come from chilly Edmonton, Alberta, although the band’s co-founders Chris Connelly and Maghan Campbell apparently drew musical inspiration from their time living in Oslo, Norway.
So, what’s the sound? It’s a giddy, rapid-fire pop-rock. A bit New-Wave-y, but they aren’t afraid to bash away at their guitars either. Nor are they afraid pick up an accordion, glockenspiel or kazoo. It’s the type of dial-a-style, ADD rock that their western neighbors in the Vancouver scene (think the New Pornographers) dish up. But also add in a dose of the cheeky, chant-y UK punk-pop of groups like Los Campesinos and Johnny Foreigner, and you get a sense of where Hot Panda is coming from.
Their thoroughly delightful debut disc Volcano…Bloody Volcano came out in February on Mint (home to other off-kilter Canadian banks like The Buttless Chaps, Immaculate Machine and Young & Sexy). It’s a disc that I’ve returned to frequently over the last couple months. Volcano’s a zippy joyride through Connelly’s odd tales navigated through the twisty, bouncy melodies. Kooky, catchy tracks like “Cold Hands/Chapped Lips,” “It’s Worth Eight Dollars,” “Afraid of the Weather” and “Whale Headed Girl” all stick in the synapses.
I went to see them at their L.A. debut at the Mint on March 25, and they were just as winning live - full of goofy humor, joyous playing and herky-jerky rhythms. Singer Connelly might be a bit of an acquired taste with his slightly theatrical, sometimes-yippy-sometimes-adenoidal croon, but he never tries to be too serious which makes him more endearing than annoying.
Their spirited, crazy-quilted pop-rock sound makes them a band to keep an eye on.

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