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Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest

by on September 29, 2010

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In one word, Deerhunter’s fourth studio album, Halcyon Digest, is simply amazing. However, one word cannot adequately describe this album. It is forty-six minutes full of pure emotion, shimmering tones, electronic beats, everything you can ask for from an album. It is more mature sounding than Microcastle/Weird Era Cont., more accessible than any of their previous work, and more musically interesting than any of their previous work. In a world of pop sensations, these four musicians have invented their own style of rock that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

In the two years between Microcastle and Halcyon, the members of Deerhunter have been hard at work. Frontman Bradford Cox has been focusing on his solo project, Atlas Sound, releasing the album Logos in 2009 to positive reviews. Guitarist/vocalist Lockett Pundt has also been busy with his side project, titled Lotus Plaza, and released The Floodlight Collective in 2009. While both of these albums were side projects, they both greatly reflected the sound that Deerhunter had as a collective unit, and the experience that these members gained while working alone is evident in Halcyon.

Opposite to the Microcastle model, which was essentially indie-rock jams for the first half of the album, and then ambient soundscapes for the second half (minus “Nothing Ever Happened”, of course), Halcyon takes on a different approach, while still retaining the classic Deerhunter sound. The first track, “Earthquake”, begins with a simple beat, created with an effected drum kit. Next enters the gorgeous arpeggiated guitar, followed by Cox’s vocals, which sound as though they are put through a megaphone – quite reminiscent of Microcastle. Abruptly, however, the track ends and the listener is taken into the realm of a simple rock tune, “Don’t Cry”. With it’s power-chords and bare-bones instrumentation, it is slowly preparing the listener for the rest of the album.

The albums first single, “Revival”, comes next. It opens with a bang, featuring plenty of seventh chords and layered instrumentation. Next, Cox’s voice comes in, only, it is not effected at all, save a little reverberation. Here is a prime example of how Bradford Cox has matured in his vocal style. It is still the same quiet, disconnected voice, yet, for the first time he goes out of his way to hit notes which seem to be a little out of his range. He takes many of these risks throughout the album, and they certainly pay off.

The album continues with a similar formula, featuring a ballad (“Sailing”), and plenty of other fantastic tunes. Most notably “Desire Lines”. This track features Lockett Pundt on vocals, and he does a fantastic job. His voice fits perfectly throughout the entire track, from the verses (which remind me a little of “The Rake’s Song” by the Decemberists) to the inspiring chorus. This track certainly stands out as an indie-rock anthem. There is one other clear example of how these four men have evolved as musicians. “Fountain Stairs” includes a saxophone solo. Yeah, that’s right, a sax solo on a Deerhunter album. Almost unheard of! “Fountain Stairs” as well as “Coronado” also include bright twelve-string guitar, which adds to the openness of the album.

With Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter has improved upon their unique style of pop songs, fusing indie-rock with catchy melodies. There is a flawless blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and the lyrics are much more straightforward than previous albums (what in the world is the meaning to the lyrics to “Nothing Ever Happened”?). Because I cannot put this album into one word, I will try to put it into one sentence: Deerhunter has taken more risks, and have gotten more rewards, without straying from their roots.

*Gems: “Revival”, “Desire Lines”, “Helicopter”


“Desire Lines”


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