Panda Bear – Buoys Album Review

Story posted February 12, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Matthew Dunn

Ahead of its release, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) asked his listeners to play Buoys “on the highest-quality audio system you have at your disposal,” instead of simply streaming it on one’s laptop or smartphone, because “when you listen to Buoys on laptop speakers, it’s half the image… because of all the stuff that’s going on at the bottom.”

Perhaps this is just a virtuoso acknowledging his craft. Panda Bear, being a part of the iconic music group Animal Collective, played a big role in their ground-breaking Post Merriweather Pavilion back in 2009. This album is hailed as one of the greatest albums of the decade and is still seems to be ahead of its time 10 years on. However, this notion of needing a high-quality audio system seemed like an immediate red flag. If the album were truly good, it’ll sound that way even in generic Apple headphones.

At its peak, Buoys provides a gorgeous assortment of sounds that dance from left to right, drifting much like a buoy out at sea, but that’s really all it offers. Enjoyable for a few brief moments before the repetitive nature of having a delay effect over a four-chord structure for an entire album kicks in, and the buoy sinks. It’s like the musical equivalence of the dreaded “water levels” of old school video games. Buoys is innovative and experimental, but over time just proves itself to be frustrating, much like swimming around to capture coins Super Mario style.

Said to have taken influence from the floating, hazy nature of recent rap artists such as Rae Sremmurd, one wonders just where those influences came to be on the album itself. Certainly not in the droned elongation of verses and definitely not from the boring use of acoustic guitar. Instead, it's more akin to a high school student getting his first amp and playing around with the dials.

Panda Bear wanted to make an album to play for the youth, yet forgetting his own age is not that old to begin with. “The youth” that are taking time to check out this album already know the works of Animal Collective and Lennox’s wonderfully orchestrated prior 2015 record “Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper.” Stepping back from a sound that was so full of production, reverb and transient vocal effects to a minimalist cluster of sub-bass and delay isn’t playing towards any “youth”; if anything, it’s losing them.

The tracks may flow into each other well, but that’s only because they are indistinguishable from one another; “Cranked”, “I Know I Don’t Know” and “Home Free” all sound like the same song sung three different ways. If there’s anything this album has done successfully, it's making consumers go back and listen to all of the old material Panda Bear has released throughout the years. This is one for the diehard fans only; monotonous and irksome, it’s not one that will allow Panda Bear into the listening circle of the new generation that he’d like, but then again most people’s audio quality is only slightly above-average. Perhaps they just might not be hearing it right.

Rating: 4/10
Best Song: Token
Worst Song: Master

 

 

Matthew Dunn is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email mzd5424@psu.edu.