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Panda Bear’s ‘Buoys’ is a miss for Noah Lennox

| Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

Panda Bear is the pseudonym of Noah Lennox, an electronic experimental-pop superstar. Whether he is working on his solo project, or with his more well-known group Animal Collective, Lennox masterfully sews hallucinatory undertones into noise-heavy pop. Somewhere between The Beach Boys and Yves Tumor, Lennox shines a chipper light onto an often profound and overwhelming genre. His songs promote anti-materialistic sentiments, and his innocent narratives develop childhood nostalgia, reminding us that everything will always work out. The music is surprisingly enlightened for a 40-year old, and if you enjoy his work, his style never becomes stale.

The high points of his catalogue are “Person Pitch” from 2007 and “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”  from 2015. Unfortunately, his latest release, “Buoys,” does not live up to the incredibly high standards he has manifested throughout his career. The album achieves the usual dreamy escape from daily routine, but muddles in one spot, never evolving into anything inspiring.

Lennox and his associates in Animal Collective have recently been fascinated with the life aquatic — the last two albums they released were titled “Tangerine Reef” and “Meeting of the Waters.” The pattern now continues with Lennox’s “Buoys.” Unfortunately, this watered down theme has seriously dampened his imagination.

The strumming pattern of each song on “Buoys” is jarringly similar, and though Lennox has proven there is beauty in simplicity before, the album becomes disappointingly repetitive after about the first three songs. Unlike his previous masterpieces, “Buoys” does not have much of an emotional progression. On 2007’s “Person Pitch,” we found Lennox sailing through a reflective and self-refining voyage, while “Buoys” exposes only one emotion, floating statically in the tide. It seems the same culmination could have been reached in a two-track single.

Much like an actual buoy, this album dips and surfaces with each song, switching from serene refinement to less exciting and somewhat irritating tracks. The high points of the album are tracks one and three, “Dolphin” and “Token,” respectively. “Dolphin” introduces the listener to a beautifully calm illustration of the sea. It romanticizes the idea of absolute contempt in simply being. The message is pure and alluring. Next comes “Cranked,” and the song is just as ugly as its name. The same two chords from “Dolphin” are used in this song, but slightly slower and somewhat darker.

Finally we reach the peak of the album, “Token.” This track is reminiscent of “Person Pitch.” It begins with cascading, despondent vocals and gradually climbs to a much more blissful climax by the end of the song. Lennox closes with a triumphant echoing of “want to / tell you / that I / want to / tell you / that I” and so on, staggering them throughout the four measures so as not to become so repetitive. “Token” is an emotionally oscillating love song and a rare gem within a fairly shallow album.

The remaining songs are rather similar. The following track “I Know I Don’t Know” fails to say much of anything, and the next track, “Master,” does a genuine job showcasing Lennox’s playful vocals and unique capacity for catchy melodies.

Artist: Panda Bear

Album: “Buoys”

Label: Domino Recording Co. Ltd.

Favorite Tracks: “Dolphin,” “Token,” “Master”

If you like: Avey Tare, Deakin, Deerhunter

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5

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