Panda Bear - Buoys artwork
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Panda Bear Buoys Domino

After the acid-washed freakout of his last major release, Panda Bear has careened in the opposite direction with Buoys, the Animal Collective member’s sixth solo LP. It’s his most austere effort by a long shot, consisting of little more than his trademark croon, jangly guitar and a rumbling behemoth of a sub bass. These sonics may come as a shock to longtime fans. Never before has Panda allowed the clarity of his voice and lyrics to stand so far to the forefront of the mix.

While this reinvention is intriguing, the record’s execution is spottier. Opening track Dolphin is its strongest offering, utilising Auto-Tune and the sound of plinking water drops to brilliant effect, while Token is a summertime jaunt that doubles as the most explicitly sexual song in his catalogue. But the bizarre twang of Master and the title track highlight the limits of this minimalist approach.

Lacklustre moments aside, the only quality really in danger of sinking the enterprise is Panda’s half-hearted attempt at speaking to today’s tumultuous social climate. He has stated that the record is “definitely” influenced by this notion, but the heart-on-the-sleeve pleas for joy that worked for Animal Collective’s twee albums feel spectacularly trite. Still, Buoys manages to float by in spite of its flat points, but only just.