Deerhunter
Microcastle


5.0
classic

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
November 22nd, 2008 | 79 replies | 15,431 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You need to listen to this again.

I first listened to Microcastle at a very weird transition in my life. I didn’t like it, not initially. Found it boring, the sound of a band deflating with the lack of new ideas, let alone something worthy of saying. That was five months and 19 days ago. Sometime in October, Ryan Flatley came to me and said, “Lewis, you need to listen to this again.”

I have a dream / no longer to be free / I want only to see / four walls made of concrete

Microcastle is structured like an art house drama, all tension and silent pauses and powerhouse climaxes, though that’s selling Brandon Cox’s vision short. If first impressions are to be believed, Deerhunter’s third album is cold and impersonal, a strikingly familiar formula that the band’s twisted sophomore effort Cryptograms shredded into pieces, shifting from pocket experimentalists to pop aficionados in one fell swoop. But an odd thing happens on those repeat listens: both bands begin to emerge victorious on Microcastle, and we come to realize that this isn’t Cox’s record; it is ours.

These kids come with gasoline and they strike a match / to get older still

Microcastle is one of the most inventive indie rock records of the decade, a fact that seems to have slipped the minds of a surprisingly underwhelmed critic pool. Not once do Deerhunter stay within the boundaries laid out for them, prone to violent misdirection, but they do it with an infectious sense of wonderment. “Cover Me (Slowly)” illustrates this with unrelenting force, walls of guitars fit so snug in the production that the feeling is claustrophobic, suddenly released with a pop with guitarist Lockett Pundt’s turn on vocals in “Agoraphobia.”

Wasted our lives / we wasted our time

Microcastle has character. It’s the perfect minimalist album, and I stress it as an album. This is the fractured human spirit, built on instability and loneliness. When the title-track, inky guitar chords that bathe Cox’s confused anguish in puddles of reverb, explodes into a chaotic frenzy of production and drum-battered noise, the effect has nothing on the deceptively cool “Calvary Scars” and its spluttering percussion and wind-chimes breaking down into arpeggios that become the mournful, apologetic “Green Jacket.” “I take what I can / and I give what I have left,” Cox sings, and it comes out in the album’s very mood; Deerhunter’s cherring-picking of ’50s pop filtered through six decades worth of history makes Microcastle nearly timeless. That Deerhunter do this without the help of delay pedals or effects is astounding.

Crucified on a cross / in front of all my closest friends

But for all the praise it should receive for being the record Deerhunter were destined to make, what will make Microcastle a classic (and this has every right to become a classic) is what the album means to the person listening. Like what OK Computer said to an era caught in the terrifying quandary of what it meant to be human in a computer age, Microcastle suggests we’re more alone than ever, burned out on irreverence and apathy. The climactic reveal of bitter rocker “Nothing Ever Happens” becomes the album’s focus, Cox’s final, desperate refrain a heartbreaking tonal shift from the dreary, apathetic performance before it (“Focus on the depth that was never there / eliminate what you can’t repair”).

I never saw it coming / waiting for something / for nothing

Microcastle isn’t an album filled with hope or solace like Dear Science. It doesn’t pepper the spirits like Visiter. Those albums will be embraced as classics because of where they were going in 2008, the visions they upheld and the palettes they constructed. But Microcastle bears no such optimism. Bluesy “Saved By Old Times” sharpens its wit on the skeptical, sonic engulfed outro, but the last dance act in “Twilight at the Carbon Lake,” Deerhunter’s crystallized ‘50s crooner, is the worst offender of all. Now here, moving ever forward into a confusing and frustrating millennium, Microcastle realizes that there really is no country for old men. Most distressing is Deerhunter’s suggestion that there isn’t much left for us, either.

time slows when it goes away go away time slows so long



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user ratings (736)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Ryan Flatley EMERITUS (4)
Deerhunter focus their energy in a new pop-oriented direction with Microcastle...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2008



16083 Comments


Dear Lewis, write this review already

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



6093 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

and the cover is just the coolest

jrowa001
November 23rd 2008



8750 Comments


i really need to get my hands on this album. cryptograms was good but ive heard that this is much better

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008



3743 Comments


whoa man a 5

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



17920 Comments


love this review duh

handoman
November 23rd 2008



2386 Comments


this has really grown on me since i first got it

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



20856 Comments


Excellent review Lewis.
Playing the devils advocate though; how is it that an album you first judged as "boring" and "the sound of a band deflating with the lack of new ideas", ends up rating the perfect 5? Or was it simply initially heard at a time when you were in no state to listen (& judge) any album at all?
Can I also presume that you do not hold an album's immediacy (& accessibility) levels as significantly relevant to its final judgment...???

Kiran
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah this rules.
Listened to this a lot when I first got it, not so much right now, although I'll probably start listening to it again after this review.

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



6093 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Playing the devils advocate though; how is it that an album you first judged as "boring" and "the sound of a band deflating with the lack of new ideas", ends up rating the perfect 5? Or was it simply initially heard at a time when you were in no state to listen (& judge) any album at all?

I wouldn't say I was in no state to listen or judge any album, but I'd definitely say it in regards of Microcastle. This is just one of those cases where I firmly believe I just didn't "get" it. What I touched upon in the review (the other seven drafts nearly focused on it exclusively) is how personal this album is [for me], though I link it to how I view the album objectively. It's the same way I listen to Feels in the way that when I was listen to a section I don't ask why it sounds good but what it's doing and saying for the song.

Can I also presume that you do not hold an album's immediacy (& accessibility) levels as significantly relevant to its final judgment...???

I always try to give albums a few spins the first time I listen to them. Depending on why I didn't like an album the first time, I might just put it off for a few weeks or months to come back to. I wouldn't like albums like Jane Doe or Strawberry Jam, and even if 2008 alone Visiter and Fleet Foxes, if I hadn't taken the time to really listen to them again. Sometimes our first impressions are spot on, but we can be wrong.
Also, someone pointed out to me in another forum that Cox has called this an "autumn" record so it could just be the seasons changing, though I think it has more to do with me as a person than the temperature.

Mendigo
November 23rd 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it is an autumn album. I thought this and "Weird Era Cont." were released as an a double album, and should therefore be reviewed together, or am I wrong?

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



6093 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It was discussed that "Weird Era Cont." is its own separate album so it should be reviewed on its own. Album is listed on the Deerhunter page.

SnackaryBinx
November 23rd 2008



2309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album ruelz

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008



862 Comments


Could never get into this band, but that's probably due to my impatience. I'll give them another shot, sounds like they need a few more than a few listens to really hit home.

Mendigo
November 23rd 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ok, then I should think about rating this 4.5 and Weird Era Cont. 3.5...
but I guess I keep it as it is, for me it feels more like a double album with one better and one weaker side.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



15730 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

review made me download this

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

AggravatedYeti
November 23rd 2008



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yah this is really good -- been sitting on it for a while now, can't decide.

SnackaryBinx
November 23rd 2008



2309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

#1 album of 08 for me.This Message Edited On 11.23.08

Doppelganger
November 23rd 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

maybe I'm just at the point you were when you first heard this

cbmartinez
November 23rd 2008



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review, fantastic album, but nowhere near a 5 doofus

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2008



6093 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cb you could find this a 5 i know it



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