Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Jeff Pearson, September 22, 2010
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath
It is on good authority that Bradford Cox, enigmatic frontman of Deerhunter, has gone to sleep. Possibly for the first time in five years since he and Deerhunter first exposed the world to their particular brand of fuzzy rock, and Cox began to churn out releases both with Deerhunter and under the monicker Atlas Sound. Six albums and countless EPs later, he sleeps. At least, he should. God knows he deserves it.
Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter’s fourth studio album, plays like a dream Cox might have had during this [totally fictional] sleep. With the crisp acoustic guitars over backwards drums opening the album’s first track, “Earthquake”, the listener immediately feels as if they’ve slipped into a faded dream world. Heavily processed electric guitars cover the budding piece like a warm blanket as the punchy rhythm builds to a breaking point, until each open up simultaneously as a flower of noise. “Don’t Cry” is a bouncy singalong with the entire choir on morphine drips. Acoustic guitar strokes flavor the track’s slow, medicated vocals. “Revival” follows, a pastoral, mandolin-led walk through the woods with heavy fuzz bleeding through the trees.
Deerhunter creates a genuine seascape with “Sailing”, a simple song featuring clean vocals and guitar being propelled by gentle waves of fluttering guitar effects. Cox reflects upon his seclusion, “Only fear can make you lonely out here/You learn to accept whatever you can get.” They pick the pace back up with “Memory Boy” and “Desire Lines”, each track brimming with infectious melodies created on virtually every instrument involved. The latter of the two features multi-instrumentalist Lockett Pundt taking the lead vocal duties. “Helicopter” is part medieval fair and two parts shimmering pop, gleaming with a hopeful and uplifting aesthetic despite lyrics reflecting a scene of personal end. The repeated refrain to end the song “Now they are through with me” resonates its haunting beauty long after Halcyon Digest has stopped its spinning.
The short “Fountain Stairs” wisps its gentle grains of sand to the gritty Baja terrain of “Coronado”, a song with an explosive saxophone section and spiky rhythm. Album closer, the seven-minute “He Would Have Laughed” follows, with its pronounced acoustic sound and detached drum fills accenting a steady build of majestic tranquility. Even at seven minutes the track feels too short, perhaps because it ends so abruptly and with it ends such a beautiful album. Not to worry, however, Bradford Cox should be awake soon enough to deliver another.