Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, PANDA!, GPGDS, Giant Panda, whichever way you want to spin their name, the five piece East Coast natives will be releasing their latest studio album on September 30, 2014 titled Steady under the juggernaut indie label Easy Star Records. Founded over 15 years ago, the international label has under its wing hard hitting bands like Rebelution, The Green, John Brown’s Body, Cas Haley, and also recently Passafire. With a roster like that, Giant Panda is certainly in good hands. Giant Panda and Easy Star Records had been friends since 2008, but the timing was never right to join up forces until now. “Sometimes it takes a while for the stars to align right,” Easy Star CEO Eric Smith says. “We always bounced around the idea of working with each other, but after hearing the growth on these latest sessions and seeing how good the band’s live set had become, we knew now was the time to finally make it happen.”
One can never quite be sure what to expect when pressing that play button while listening to a Giant Panda album. This is generally the case, although after spending some time with Steady, the experience is much more streamlined and feels substantially more refined. The graceful melodies seem to mingle throughout, with the reggae backed lo-fi instrumentals that blend into the ultimate in musical versatility. Steady is the equivalent of a painter putting his most inspired vision on canvas with impeccable execution. The stellar effort from the Rochester, New York boys as well as the top notch talent behind the boards will undoubtedly make a hefty mark in the charts soon to follow.
As usual, a few tracks stood out from the rest.
With the album Steady, all the familiar Giant Panda elements still remain, although just turned up a notch, bringing together an elegant crowd pleasing package. The album starts off strong with the track “Whatever Cost”. On this track, Giant Panda seemingly puts their best foot forward, starting off the song with a happy, head bobbing riff which will sit nicely in your head, resulting in spontaneous humming throughout the day. The well orchestrated buildup and structure of the track combined with a tight knitted melody will most definitely bring anyone to a four minute and twenty-three second session of pure utopia.
The vocal delivery in conjunction with the deep layering of the instrumentals truly make this track an instant classic.
The title track “Steady” showcases what seems to be an effortless ability from Giant Panda to craft an amazingly catchy melody while displaying the challenging capacity to not overdo the production. The subtleties on this track are what really make it shine. Whether it’s the ominous and dream-like sequence of the keyboard or the delicate guitar plucking in the background, “Steady” is without a doubt one of the catchiest songs of the year. It’s really no surprise that the people behind Giant Panda released one of the strongest tracks of the album available to the public as a free download long before the album release date.
Another pleasant surprise was the track titled “Take Your Place” which features reggae veteran Ranking Joe, who plays an integral and very prominent part on this track. Ranking Joe’s musical career began in the mid 70’s and has continued to this day, pumping out 21st century classics like “Time” from the time-honored album Dub Side of the Moon‒a reggae interpretation of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Being that Dub Side of the Moon is one of the many albums we hold close to our hearts here at Top Shelf Reggae, we were very excited to hear that Ranking Joe would be making an appearance on the track. The vocal delivery in conjunction with the deep layering of the instrumentals truly make this track an instant classic.
The gloves are off with this Giant Panda album, and it’s full steam ahead‒starting with a nationwide tour which started August 28th, 2014 in Naples, NY. Giant Panda will then connect with Easy Star All-Stars and Tatanka on the west side of the United States to kick off their West Coast tour starting September 17th, 2014 in Tacoma, WA (Please note that the Easy Star All-Star tour officially begins September 12, 2014 without Giant Panda) and then wrapping up nine cities later at San Juan Capistrano, CA. Take a visit to their website to see if they’re coming to a town near you.
Preview and pre-order Steady on
Steady track listing
- Whatever Cost
- Wolf At The Door
- Take Your Place (feat. Ranking Joe)
- Mr. Cop
- Hurt Up Your Brother
- Nice Feeling
- Not The Fool
- Favorite Song
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad – Steady
Release date September 30, 2014 • Easy Star Records
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.