Wednesday 20 October 2010

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

It's been a while since an album tempted me towards the keyboard (of my computer that is) but Deerhunter's latest has demanded play after play, containing that mix of invention, variety and hooks that make you want to listen through it just one more time. It came as a bit of surprise as their last album, Microcastle, had never made me want to listen to it beyond the little samples I heard on its release. There was something a bit rudderless about it, a meandering quality that meant it disappeared from my thoughts almost immediately. There's something different about this album though. It's much more structured and contains, dare I say it, more tunes, more songs, more enjoyment. Earthquake is an atmospheric opener; reversed drums, almost Vangelis-like instrumentation and distorted vocals follow a warped progression. The distortion continues with the jangled pop strumming of Don't Cry before Revival brightens things further with mandolins that recall fellow Georgians REM and West-coast harmonies that float on top. Sailing quietens things considerably with its tale of solitude and isolation, 'You can't take too long/Making up songs' sings Bradford Cox, something Deerhunter could never be accused of with a prolific output of two EP's and three albums in the last four years.

The pace picks up on Memory Boy which stomps along nicely before early favourite Desire Lines turns up with its portentous guitars. The longest track on the album so far the first half is conventional enough before the vocals end and the guitars take over for three and a half minutes of guitar-driven instrumental. Basement Scene's vocals begin with the word 'dream' sung to the very same notes of the Everly Brother's track of the same name. That's where the similarities end although there's something a bit sixties influenced about it, although in fact they sound most like Clinic. Helicopter (video below) is one of those tracks that piles up the layers making it sound slightly different with each listen. There's something plaintive about the tone as Cox sings - 'No one cares for me/I have minimal needs/I keep no company/And now they are through with me' - but the music has a transcendent quality that keeps it all light.

Fountain Stairs is another pleasant, two-and-a-half minute head bobber but Coronado, while only slightly longer, feels much bigger due to the big saxophone that dominates. Apparently inspired by the Rolling Stone's Exile On Main Street it is a welcome addition to the sound of the album, a chance to get down before the extended closer He Would Have Laughed. The album works so well because for all the looseness of the playing and the feel, most of the tracks are actually quite short and sound like fully formed songs rather than experiments and ideas. That's what makes it work far better for me than their last album, and a good indication of what they could be capable of in the future.


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