Panda Bear: Buoys
There’s always been a dreamlike quality to Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear releases, where surreal, warped sounds dance alongside lush, atmospheric vocals. That notion is still intact on Buoys, Panda Bear’s sixth solo album, but the warped ‘60s psychedelic-pop sound that may have characterized his early records is absent this time around. In its place, front and center, is something unexpected: the acoustic guitar. Lennox hunkered down in his adopted hometown of Lisbon, Portugal, to record the album’s nine tracks, reteaming with producer Rusty Santos, whom he worked with on his celebrated 2007 LP, Person Pitch. He also wrangled collaborators this time, working with Chilean DJ/vocalist Lizz and Portuguese musician Dino D’Santiago. From the first moments of the opening number and continuing throughout the album’s 31 minutes, the Panda Bear mantra seems closely tied to water—a drip-like sample runs throughout lead track “Dolphin,” while the album’s title track “Buoys” is obviously a nod to the oceanic floating device. But the acoustic guitar is really the thread, a homage to Portuguese history and bossa nova. Panda Bear is still romantic this time around—simple, direct declarations have been a hallmark of his work and he’s still that way in parts of Buoys . But he’s more abstract, too, leaving you to make sense of what he means when he sings “a slap on a jelly ass” during “Token,” or “Home Free,” where he declares, “Come in the sack, on the run, stay on the mat, give it back.” With all this in mind, Buoys still certainly sounds like a Panda Bear record. It’s otherworldly, yet familiar and experimental, but grounded—just a more mellow experience all around this time.