By: Tori Eberle
Back after a hasty year-long hiatus, Deerhunter has created an album with all the ambience and garage guitar sounds they are known for, but with a slightly more “listenable” sound. A four-man band from Athens, Georgia, Bradford Cox and company incorporate many genres such as noise rock, art rock (whatever that is), shoegaze and post punk.
Along with a multitude of genres at their angsty fingertips, Deerhunter lists among their “defining influences” new wave and ambient artists such as Echo & The Bunnymen and even the “father of ambient music” himself, Brian Eno. However, this band isn’t full of angst and dream-like melancholic lyrics without reason. With the death of a member in their past along with a laundry list of line-up changes, Deerhunter’s development as a group has been anything but positively progressive.
With the album’s first track, “Earthquake,” Deerhunter’s sound can be described as anything but garage rock to start with. There is a heavy industrialized beat at the start-up of the track, then ambient guitar stirrings and Cox’s murmurings of remembrance and metaphors concerning grays and whites dominate. At the half-point of the track (around two minutes), the industrial beat returns as well as sounds that could be described as someone gargling and sighing simultaneously. The song has almost a dream-like quality typical of Deerhunter’s music in the past, but also begs to be clapped along to in a somehow non-cheesy way.
The dream-like quality returns with the track, “Basement Scene”, arguably one of the best songs on the album. The track has the feel almost of a 50’s/60’s group pop song like “Mr. Sandman (Bring Me a Dream)” by the Chordettes or “All I Have to Do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers. However, this track from Halcyon Digest is significantly more haunting than most 50’s group pop songs. The theme of this particular track along with being haunting and almost retro seems to concern adolescence and a lack of wanting to grow up. References to dreams and age are actually common to Deerhunter’s music, especially with their second full-length album Cryptograms.
Meanwhile, the next track on the album, “Helicopter,” juxtaposes a strangely upbeat sound with lyrics alluding to feelings of isolation and loneliness. There also vague religious references in the lyrics of the track. There are sounds throughout the track reminiscent almost of waves rising and crashing down on some distant shore, giving the song a relaxing tone despite its depressing lyrics.
While not the most upbeat of albums in terms of lyrics or mood, Deerhunter’s album utilizes experimental and ambient sounds that succeed in keeping up with Deerhunter’s old sound as well as opening up the future for a perhaps slightly more electronic sound.
Angst is a universal and always useful inspiration for lyrics, but Deerhunter doesn’t just use angsty lyrics to attract and keep listeners gorged with beautiful and peaceful melancholy.