Panda Bear's Young Prayer is, to my mind, a perfect album, in that it does exactly what it sets out to do as a musical work. How can I make such an allegation? Although I can't profess to somehow know the precise effect that the artist was aiming for, I would refer skeptics to the album's title, which, in this case, serves as an excellent expression of the music's intent. Let me explain a little more clearly.
Listening to these 9 untitled tracks as one cohesive whole has an overwhelming effect on both my senses and consciousness. The music is simply so powerful and beautiful that I have felt it necessary to listen to it only under ideal circumstances, usually with headphones, so that every sonic detail can be picked up and fully appreciated. I would advise potential listeners to do the same, either waiting for or setting up situations conducive to relaxation and reflection, without interruptions. Then, open yourself up and allow this entrancing elegy to be poured into you.
Each track follows a succession that, when considered, seems to be the one necessary arrangement. For instance, although almost none of the vocals consist of understandable lyrics, one can hear Panda Bear at the end of track 1 proclaiming "...this is how I will speak to you..." and "...this is how you will know me." This acts as a perfect lead-in to the rest of the album as a whole. Most tracks are heavily-strummed, lovely, pensive wanderings, but a few stray from this prototype, most notably 5 and 7. The former is a playful, pounding chant, and the latter is a slow, mournful lament with highly-processed vocals. The emotions evoked by each of these miniatures are intense but very difficult to pinpoint. My personal listening experience tends to make me feel completely immersed in my surroundings, contemplative, melancholic and elated (often at the same time!), and extremely nostalgic. This is where the title comes in: this music is simply bursting at the seams with all the joy and the pain, all the wonder and the fear of childhood. In its unabashed youthfulness, it yearns for the soothing presence of a wise and trusted adult, but in the end, it assumes that roll as well. It is the arc of learning to accept something. I will never let this music go.