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REVIEW: Panda Bear creates a delicate, poignant soundscape in new album 'Buoys'



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"Buoys" is a studio album by Panda Bear. The album was released Feb. 8.  Panda Bear Buy Photos

Despite the colorful and seemingly-serene atmosphere of “Buoys,” Panda Bear asks listeners to take a prolonged introspective look within themselves and ponder their places in this world we all share.

Panda Bear, the pseudonym for singer-songwriter Noah Lennox, is known for his work both as a solo artist and former member of the acclaimed indie outfit Animal Collective.

In his most recent release, Panda Bear’s sixth studio album “Buoys” may be his most experimental and personal to date. 

Lennox strips back on instrumentation but still focuses on effects, creating a blend of simple acoustic sounds complimented with a variety of reverb, delay and echo. 

The end product is a washed-out, psych-infused folk sound that takes the listener into a watery, sloppy, yet oddly inviting world of music. The album’s soundscapes are vibrant and radiant, taking the listener on a vivid and introspective journey.

This journey brings forth thoughts of our own loneliness and heartache, themes that are ever-present throughout the album. This particularly true in the spacey, sentimental track "Inner Monologue." 

The track is set to a quiet repetitive guitar and a haunting sample of a crying girl as Lennox repeats the words "one to one" in a forlorn and despondent voice, inviting the listener to join him in an intimate meditation.

The airy, plush instrumentals welcome the listener into the seemingly-hopeful, but eventually the listener might start to question their current state in life as Lennox allows them into his own world of loneliness and longing.

As touching as this song is, it showcases one of the reoccurring flaws of the album: Lennox’s experiments with his own singing voice.

Throughout the album, Lennox challenges his own voice and stretches it to its extremes, as evident on other tracks such as "Dolphin" and "Buoys."

“Dolphin” creates a beautiful musical environment of minimal instrumentation and effects, complemented by the sound of a raindrop replacing the pound of a snare drum.

Correspondingly, Dolphin’s lyrics paint a delicate yet frail picture: “Has it always been so, so quiet?” he sings on the track. “I would always be there when you need it, wanna give you a hand.”

But once the track begins to take form, Lennox attempts to become some sort of psychedelic crooner. His manipulated voice reaches uncomfortable levels when being subjected to reverb and other effects. 

These vocal experiments are jarring and out-of-place, taking the listener out of the well-crafted soundscape and almost ruining the message and atmosphere of the song. 

As Panda Bear, Lennox remains an enigmatic and intriguing solo artist. “Buoys” proves that.

It’s a delicate album made to be listened to on a night where one begins to feel slightly out-of-body, a perfect time for introspection. There’s a return to reality that happens when you finish listening to the album, for better or for worse.

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