Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, could never be accused of being boring. He pushes the boundaries of electronic and experimental pop music both in Animal Collective and with his solo records. His 2007 masterstroke Person Pitch influenced an entire generation of young indie rock musicians to buy a minimoog and sampler and write about their feelings and such. I think if you’d ask him about his influence on younger musicians he’d have little to say about it. Lennox seems more interested in pushing himself and his art to new heights than look backwards.
Panda Bear’s last album was 2015s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. That album was close to an hour of Lennox’ trademark bizarre and wonky electro pop, like Brian Wilson befriending a sampler and synths over sunny California vibes. By contrast, Panda Bear’s newest record titled Buoys is barely 30 minutes and is as sparse as anything he’s done. There’s little fussing here. Just pretty little songs with Noah Lennox’ quirky touches for good measure.
“Dolphin” opens the album with what sounds like an old arcade game, then slips into dripping noises, acoustic guitar, and Lennox’ effected vocals. It’s subtle, low key, and falls into Oneohtrix Point Never territory. “Cranked” sounds more like classic Panda Bear. A touch of Tomboy and even some Animal Collective’s dreaminess thrown in for good measure. Noah Lennox still has that Beach Boys slant in his vocals, while the track is accompanied by laser gun sounds and strummed acoustic guitar.
There’s always one or two standout tracks on a Panda Bear album, and “Inner Monologue” is that one for Buoys. Lilting acoustic guitar, keys, and Noah Lennox’ emotive vocals create a little world of longing and mystery that holds you at bay for it’s entire 4 and a half minute run time.
Where Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper sort of felt overly long and drawn out, Buoys feels like it gets right to the point. There’s not a single song that doesn’t belong on here. With Buoys, Noah Lennox and Panda Bear shows his art is still very much relevant and forward-thinking.
7.9 out of 10