For nearly 60 years, pop music has been the go-to artistic venue for conveying the stomach-twisting mix of emotions felt by self-obsessed people between the ages of 16 and 21. But more often than not, that music is created by adults remembering (or re-imagining) what it was like to feel simultaneously depressed, horny, angry, and exhilarated during every waking hour. But Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, Avi Buffalo’s cherub-faced 19-year-old singer-songwriter, is still sorting out these feelings on the L.A. indie-pop band’s heart-melting, self-titled debut.
Avi Buffalo plays like first-person journalism from the frontlines of adolescence, perfectly capturing the feel of that summer after high-school graduation, when young people go about the business of packing up their childhoods and pretending to be prepared for whatever the hell comes next. The songs are thick with heartsick melancholy and physical bliss, and it’s all wrapped up in the comfort of beatific, starry-night guitar pop nicked from “old” Built To Spill and Shins records.
Zahner-Isenberg writes most bracingly about teen sex in forms both demoralizing (“Five Little Sluts”) and transcendent (“Summer Cum,” which will turn stomachs and warm souls), and gets away with it like nobody even five years older than him could. Elsewhere, Avi Buffalo expresses the overwhelming rush of being young, alive, and unformed. “What’s in it for me?” Zahner-Isenberg sings with a piercing squeak in the chorus of the album’s gooiest pop song. He honestly doesn’t know, and that’s what makes Avi Buffalo such an affecting listen.