Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
A new release from Atlanta’s sublime alt.indie combo always comes attached with a hot sense of anticipation, and the arrival of this first full-length Deerhunter effort in two years is no exception. The buzz generated by new songs showcased live on tour has sent excitement levels for Halcyon Digest through the roof and, as ever, they have delivered. In keeping with the approach they took with last year’s Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP, the band have fashioned a collection of more traditionally structured numbers compared to the more explicitly experimental output in their back catalogue. The result is a record with a fuzzy, indie-pop heart shot through with spectral guitar lines and hazy, sun-bleached loops - and another top-class addition to their formidable canon.
For the most part there are two types of track showcased here - the raw, more immediate pop-tinged efforts and a handful of lush, atmosphere-laden affairs. Of the former, recent single ‘Revival’ is an enjoyable upbeat stomper, while ‘Memory Boy’ is sweetly simple classic pop. The pick of the bunch, ‘Desire Lines’, sees a chugging bassline enveloped by a snake-hipped groove coupled with a killer “whoa-oh” chorus that builds into a scintillating extended breakdown. The sound of a supremely confident band really letting loose, it makes for a strong, shackle-busting centrepiece to what is, on balance, a pretty restrained album.
Littered in amongst the more obviously catchy numbers are the quieter efforts that manage to quietly open up into your consciousness and prove just as impressive. On first listen more ethereal tracks like the shimmering, atmospheric opener ‘Earthquake’ and minimalistic ballad ‘Sailing’ seem fairly nondescript, but once their hypnotic charms begin to reveal themselves you’re well and truly hooked. Slap-bang in the middle of these two approaches is the sublime ‘Helicopter’, a more low-key number that nonetheless immediately connects with an emotional punch and is up there with the best work of the band’s career - high praise indeed. A blissful blend of gorgeous fluffy guitars, gently bubbling samples and Bradford Cox’s plaintive vocals, it comes wrapped in a blanket of comforting tape hiss.
Other highlights include the ultra lo-fi lullaby ‘Basement Scene’ and the fuzzy, scratchy ‘Coronado’, where a blast of saxophone adds a welcome touch of no-wave edge to proceedings. Closer 'He Would Have Laughed' sees Cox pay tribute to the late, great, latter-day punk icon Jay Reatard, its soothing, looped guitar melody provoking comparison to his Atlas Sound side-project. Each of their releases so far have seen Deerhunter’s stock rise, and if there is any justice Halcyon Digest should continue that trend and maybe even serve as a breakthrough to open them up to a whole new audience. It’s undoubtedly the band’s most straightforward release to date, which may well come as a disappointment to some, but it may well also be their loveliest and most soulful.