Tuesday, September 28

Record Review: Deerhunter [Halcyon Digest, 4AD]

by Rebecca Gayle

Three Deerhunter albums and two Atlas Sound solo albums later, Bradford Cox and the rest of the Deerhunter gang are at it yet again, making beautiful music that is intelligent, soulful, and never afraid to evolve. With Deerhunter’s fourth album, Halcyon Digest, released just this Tuesday, Sept. 28, Deerhunter re-establishes itself as an unstoppable creative force in the music world.

Although Halcyon Digest contains all the elements that put Deerhunter on the music map in the first place – unabashed experimentalism that layers different sounds to create unique sonic textures and pairs them with rather melancholy themes and lyrics – it provides an interesting departure from the band’s 2008 release, Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. Taking off where Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. left off, Halcyon Digest finds Deerhunter continuing to drift away from the heavier, more electronically-influenced sound of 2007’s Cryptograms and further embracing the ’60s-influenced pop first seen on Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. The result is perhaps Deerhunter’s most accessible and tangible album yet – an album that beautifully balances the nostalgia that pervades the band’s work with a sonic lightness and lyrical content that is much less direct in its self-deprication and existentialism than in past albums.

Even with the penchant for experimentalism seen in the work of both Deerhunter and lead singer Bradford Cox’s solo work as Atlas Sound, Halcyon Digest still manages to present some very new sounds and surprises. In fact, Deerhunter makes it very clear that, with this album, as with every other, the band is approaching its sound from a new place. Take, for example, the tenth song, “Coronado,” which introduces a saxophone and finds Deerhunter at its jazziest, and the opening song, “Earthquake,” which captures the very adept sound mixing used to create several layers of texture for the song – an element that is evident throughout all of Halcyon Digest. Deerhunter also changes things up by allowing guitarist Lockett Pundt to step in for Cox for lead vocals on “Fountain Head” and “Desire Lines.” On these tracks, Pundt does not disappoint and, without a doubt, does Cox vocal justice, maintaining the same sentiment of Cox’s vocals, but with a bit of a twist.

With Cox and Pundt on vocals, Joshua Fauver on bass, and Moses Archuleta on drums, Deerhunter delivers several stand-out songs on Halcyon Digest. Two of these are “Fountain Head” and “Desire Lines” – the songs for which Pundt mans the lead vocals – as well as the surprise jazz of “Coronado” and the rather upbeat “Revival” and “Helicopter.” The album as a whole, however, provides a much stronger offering than several of its individual songs. All of the eleven songs on the album play into and feed on each other beautifully, creating a very smooth, coherent collection of amazingly crafted tracks that are a real treat to listen to. Furthermore, each song has so many layers of different sounds and textures that listeners hear new elements with each repeated listen and can really marvel at Deerhunter’s craftsmanship of both the individual tracks and the album as a whole.

With Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter remains true to its very core and, at the same time, provides an unexpected and delightful departure from earlier releases. Really, Halcyon Digest drives home the point that Cox and the rest of the Deerhunter foursome need to keep doing what they’re doing – making music that is always evolving without compromising its heart, mind, or soul – because it is definitely working.

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