Review: Panda Bear — “Buoys”

The solo material of Noah Lennox, more commonly known under his moniker “Panda Bear”, is something I’m entirely new to, and went into with very little preconceived notions aside from what I’ve heard of Noah’s critical darling of a band, “Animal Collective”. What I got out of his newest release — something seemingly rather special though, something with a lot of heart and character about it that’s left me with a strong impression of how passionate and intelligent Noah’s music can be on its own.

Noah Lennox by Fernanda Pereira
photo: Fernanda Pereira

What Gives the Album So Much Character?

This album is a quaint little gift of whimsicality, of musical simplicity which offers a gateway into a world that’s only as intricate as your imagination allows it to be. It’s a world that invites you to put your feet up and explore boundlessly. It’s a safari through a world of lush vibrancy which the album is excited to share with its listeners. It gives you a beautiful sense of wide-eyed curiosity that makes you feel like you’re in control of your explorative walk through this record’s world. But all the while it subtly guides you toward the beautiful vision of paradise it layed out on the road ahead of you from the start.


What is the Album Built Around?

At the very core of the music of the album is the simple and earthy guitar playing Noah uses as a foundation for everything else that is to come. His playing is constantly strumming away in the back of the album’s mix. It’s remaining both a soft pillow for your ears and a mellow canvas for the rest of the production to be painted on top of it. Noah’s playing isn’t meant to be anything flashy whatsoever — I’d say it’s intended to be the polar opposite. But in doing so he helps build a fantastic foundation for the imagination-sparking potential the album’s atmosphere raising around its listener.


How Does the Production Support its Sound?

It’s everything around the guitar that gives the record such a vibrant feel, complete with blissful synths and sunny vibes which make the experience very comforting and relaxing. This serene production style is heavily reminiscent of the heavily psychedelic and wild material The Beatles put out in their Magical Mystery Tour days and the streamlined, accessible pop flair of Owl City. This balance is taken in stride and turned into something very simple and digestible without sacrificing its structural integrity and artistic vision — something much of the world of modern pop music fails to capture.

Another thing the album does differently that really sets it apart and allows to be the furthest thing from boring despite its sleepy atmosphere — is the frequent use of onomatopoeia within the production.

Pnda Bear Dolphin

Sounds of splashing water and other natural sounds make many of these tracks feel like they are living and breathing, existing in a real world that is a separate and gorgeous reality apart from ours. The sounds of laughing and crying which constantly alternate and build tension in a track like “Inner Monologue” are another example of these perfect and subtle touches making these songs feel so much more immersive and colorful.

What About the Singing?

Noah’s vocal performance is just dreamy and airy enough to fit all of this perfectly. He floats above these tracks with glory and grace within his reverb-soaked sound. He makes himself bold enough to be unignorable, yet so blended in that he becomes another part of the instrumentals and sonic presence of the album in many ways. Vocally, he serves as another tool in the album’s arsenal of atmosphere, coating every song with something that feels as alive and present as the rest of the album without drawing too much attention towards making the LP about him and his voice.

This is really is something special that you have to experience for yourself to truly understand. Buoys are both — a great testament to the best that Psychedelic Pop can be and the most atmospheric and versatile that Modern Pop can be.

Must-listen to: Token, Inner Monologue, Crescendo.

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