Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) does the life aquatic with a soothing laid-back song from his forthcoming album Buoys. He follows suit of his bandmates in Animal Collective earlier in the year who released Tangerine Reef, an audio-visual album to raise awareness of the plight of the world’s coral reefs. Sans Lennox, however, that album was a mixed result, struggling to breathe underwater while conjuring the watery sounds of the reef.
Here, Dolphin suffers no such problems, and also perches you a bit higher up in the landscape with a view to the sun-glinted waves, its gently strumming guitars reminiscent of Caribbean troubadours and a beachcomber’s unhurried pace. Listening to Dolphin you can almost picture yourself lounging on the beach with waves crashing in the background, then opening your eyes and peering out from your straw hat to see Jimmy Buffet raise a coconut daiquiri with a nod from the next hammock over.
Lennox coos a lugubrious melody with an auto-tuned flavour, which tends to channel that refracted, rippling aquatic feel of the song. The sustained vocal notes reach out through the depths, like a dolphin’s echolocated vocalisations not finding anything to bounce back off as they trail away without returning: “to the sea…” The lyrics evoke the ocean, but also touch on more land-lubbing concerns such as “gonna switch off the screen, un-blinded” before fading out with a lush “to the end…”
There are other nice touches on Dolphin, including the drips and drops that keep the time, substituting for a snare drum, and some amazing sub-sonic bass lines creating a bodily calming undertow.
It will be interesting to hear how far Buoys continues to push the aquatic theme, but Dolphin is certainly worth the plunge.