Gold Panda often tries to create a sense of artistic divergence with his sounds. Listening to his music can conjure the awe of grand cityscapes and the adventure of finding oneself in new locales, often engendering overwhelming sensations that go beyond a simple auditory effect. It’s a raw wanderlust that fuels his aim to craft environments and emotional circumstance through his sounds, something central to his music and artistic direction. His debut, Lucky Shiner, was a smorgasbord of bright samples and sounds that, when roped together, made for a graceful dish of nostalgia and wonder. Good Luck and Do Your Best is a pointed continuation of that philosophy — the final stage of gestation of the artist’s overarching approach.
Inspired by Gold Panda’s travels to Japan, Good Luck and Do Your Best channels a similar quality of Lucky Shiner, exchanging the more dancey elements of his last album, Half of Where You Live, for a more meditative approach towards his rich soundscapes. Relative to his past work, Good Luck and Do Your Best illustrates a mature embrace of his long-plied approach toward his work. Low-key and restrained nature, Good Luck and Do Your Best is an exercise of Gold Panda’s long-held originality, bucking the trend of modern electronic music and distinguishing itself as a fresh fixture on the face of the genre as a result.
The album’s best parts embody the kind of lively ardor and adventure that’s token to the excitement of travel. Washed with warmth and wonder, Golden Panda’s vagabond instrumentation manages to craft grand atmospheres with little at hand (and laudably so). Reminiscent of the kind of adventure only personal to oneself when traveling to new and unknown places, the album does a fair job embodying both the beauty of discovering the unknown and the awe that follows. “I Am Real Punk” and “Time Eater” underpin this feeling, with songs that manage to convey rich atmospheres beyond the minimal elements that make up their sounds.
Gold Panda’s Japanese influence is clear both in the samples used and much of the album’s promotional material. Though Gold Panda has spent considerable time in Japan, knows the language and embraces the culture as almost his own, there are points throughout the album and within his music videos that feel as if there’s a mindless lifting of another culture, à la “Lost in Translation.” Though the thematics of the album fit Gold Panda’s individual sensibilities, it’s hard not to at least subconsciously make the negative connection between his work and the trivial relationship between Japan’s wondrous landscape and the foreign protagonists of the film. In parts of the album, his influences fit in subtle and smooth ways, but in others it’s almost as if those influences are the only things speaking for the artist. It’s a tenuous line to ride — the appreciation of another’s land without those inevitable trivialities is a hard task to manage.
Good Luck and Do Your Best is a humble project on Gold Panda’s end. It journeys through emotion and pervades the sentimental importance of nostalgia and memory. Rather than just serving as a concrete extension of his thoughts, Gold Panda’s latest album gifts listeners with a body of work that ebbs and flows at the will of the listener, having the ability to provoke such emotion that makes the album each listener’s own. In its glory, Good Luck and Do Your Best reminds us of the beauty found in memory and the awe found in adventure.