Review Summary: Deerhunter focus their energy in a new pop-oriented direction with Microcastle
Last year, Deerhunter’s Cryptograms
was a haunting, yet blissful album. Additionally, it appeared rather bipolar; the first slew of tracks appeared bleak, while the second portion illuminated a giddy, shoegaze/indie-pop sound. But what made Cryptograms
startling was its delicate balance. The sheer sum of each meticulously constructed song developed into one of the best records last year. Now in the midst of autumn comes Microcastle
and Deerhunter’s sound is as vibrant as ever. Their sound has shifted to a more poppy style, with little remnants of their lush walls of sound transitioning songs found previously.
“Agoraphobia” highlights difference in the newfound clarity of sound in Microcastle
. Backed by a rather bland bass line, the guitars shuffle back and forth behind Bradford Cox’s pleasantly refined vocals. The dance-ready pop tunes continue with “Never Stops,” an admirable, jubilant track. Aside from the noticeable sound difference, Cox’s lyrics tend to tell a story with as few details as possible. Perhaps it was to leave broad generalizations to create different scenarios and interpretations; or simply following suite with the majority of the songwriting encountered thus far on Microcastle
. This is not to say that the songs are necessarily bland and underachieving, but more that they the execution is almost too perfect.
Where the album picks up stems from “Microcastle,” a track that slowly builds as serenading guitars, almost from a scene created through a tropical sunset, eventually builds into a needed change of direction. With a few drum hits, a shoegaze aura of sound pulsates with echoing vocals and thick bass riffs. While the span between “Calvary Scars” and “Activa” is an interesting chunk behind the experimental realms of Deerhunter, they are oddly placed in succession. Well, good thing the best song accredited to Deerhunter’s name thus far follows.
It is no surprise that when bassist Josh Fauver is pumping out his best riffs that Deerhunter shine the brightest. In fact, it becomes the focal point of “Nothing Ever Happened,” even if it is under shadowed by methodically controlled guitars for a nearly three minute jam session. The events that unfold from start to finish in “Nothing Ever Happened” are gorgeous. It is a defining moment of liveliness that sparked this album to a new height. Luckily, tracks thereafter become rather refreshing and memorable in the same instant. The muddled ending of “Neither Of Us, Uncertainly” drifts back-and-forth until the sound is untangled and a beautiful piano melody escapes as the song ends, eventually transitioning into the closing ballad “Twilight At Carbon Lake” (which ends with a killer noise breakdown).
The placement of certain tracks on Microcastle
are an obvious glaring weakness, but one cannot take away the pure execution and quality of the songs. In all, Microcastle
is a defining step in Deerhunter’s newfound direction that shifts weight towards a more open and free indie-pop sound with a unique shoegaze finish.