Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest


4.5
superb

Review

by robin EMERITUS
September 20th, 2010 | 280 replies | 32,165 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Halcyon Digest is a celebration and then a gift; you put your faith in the right hands.

As someone with a habit for music and an even grosser habit for enthusiasm, there’s something about writing on a favourite band- and with Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter have cemented themselves as one- that makes me feel like I’m playing in a tribute band. I could set up in a pub with a few balding dads this evening and we could rework my favourite indie rock tunes; we’ve got me and my woeful vocal skills, a sloppy drummer with decadent sunglasses and the other guys who ‘like that song’ and have a guitar perched on their office desk. It used to be a reminder of unfulfilled dreams, but no more! And hey, aside from the guy in the corner telling me to keep my day job (or rather, wondering when I’ll get one), I’d be on a parallel plane. I already do the things tribute-acts do: I make bad jokes (we’re the band who never stops) and I do my idol next to no justice. But does it matter? Does it matter that no one in this damned pub is listening to us? Surely it just matters that I said it; I love this band. So meet mine. We’re the Microcastles.

But I can tell you right now that we’re no ordinary suck-fest; we flat out can’t do Deerhunter. And that’s because Deerhunter isn’t a pub band. They couldn’t pull off being the background hum and no matter how hard they tried they wouldn’t go two measly seconds without turning heads. Halcyon Digest, their fourth full-length exploration into the world of fuzz and pop, makes that a dead cert. Again Deerhunter refresh us with every song, and again they get us to crank our neck around so we can see their newest tricks- even if there aren’t any, they have great sleight of hand. 2010’s record follows swiftly on the heels of the vibrant Microcastle and drains all the colour, greying out the landscape for something just the same but, in some crazy paradox, completely different.

Halcyon Digest still buzzes like a Deerhunter record, with songs of similar ilk (you could pair “Sailing” and “Microcastle,” for instance) but with a nerve so radically different it’s hard to know what’s happened. What has happened to Deerhunter? It’s not the concepts the record runs by- Halcyon Digest harkens back to memories good and bad, but made up- nor is it the steps sideways in music, although the Strokes-influenced “Coronado” makes a case for the band keeping a saxophonist full-time. In the end, it’s that this album has no real direction, and for a band with a front man who never writes lyrics in advance and makes music so organically, five years seems like enough time to make an album both effortless and perfect. Halcyon Digest isn’t conflicted for its shifts in music or emotion, it’s delighted for it.

At it’s most daunting, Halcyon Digest is still a pop album. In this sense, maybe it’s no different from Microcastle- the album focus “Desire Lines” self-destructs just as “Nothing Ever Happens” did, after all. But there’s something so of-its-own about Halcyon Digest, something to take bored shoegazers aback. Even those who were expecting Deerhunter to write something wildly different to this (as I did) will be overwhelmed, and for the personality of it alone; eleven songs with lives of their own, joyous or raucous, ditzy or adventurous.

It suits a band with four guys; dreamy ambient ballads like “Earthquake” and the gorgeous “Helicopter” get us thinking we’re floating with Cox’s Atlas Sound, but the record is in upheaval around these markers. Lockett Pundt shows just how good he can be beyond The Floodlight Collective. When given a voice- one dustier and deeper than his best pal- this guy reveals dimensions the band never knew, going in blazing on the post-punk of “Desire Lines” before the song deflates into smoky solos. This is his moment, surely, and when every creative force plays with such assurance, the music comes second nature. Halcyon Digest as a result is the most accomplished, confident Deerhunter record made, contented in stream-of-consciousness narrative and music that never wants to end, be it the refusal on “Desire Lines” or the scatterbrained Cox on “He Would Have Laughed.” Deerhunter is basking.

That’s enough for me; sure, like previous records, Halcyon Digest scales influences and plays to them, but the band don’t have any interest in being the Velvet Underground or My Bloody Valentine anymore. And Deerhunter aren’t even willing to explode; Cox, Pundt and co. aren’t writing something of grand consequence, even if the record results in the same way. They don’t have to write pop songs but give in to a couple along the way, with the perfect “Revival” and “Fountain Stairs” products, if you could call them that. Not that these are the best tracks, anyway- the best ones meander into the next until finally we fall in with “He Would Have Laughed,” a Cox penned tribute to the late Jay Reatard and the longest track on the record with the most grandeur because of it. But it falls out with us first, drifting away from Cox’s jittery plucking into assured obscurity. Cox doesn’t seem to care that his song escaped him three minutes earlier.

And I have to ask, who else could write indie rock quite like this? When bands grow older they settle; Arcade Fire did this year with The Suburbs and Animal Collective put their troubles to bed last year, but has anyone’s music settled as well as this quaint Georgian quartet? Who other than Deerhunter would let their music fall out of their grasp? Halcyon Digest is huge but just as effortless, conceptualised but just as spontaneous. Deerhunter fans will love it, if for no other reason than it is their favourite band falling on their feet. Without trying. And all in all, you can’t express something like that. I can’t tell you why that’s so great- how could I? How am I supposed to tell you what makes Halcyon Digest so great?

I’m quitting the band. Don’t own an amplifier, anyway.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
deathofasalesman
September 20th 2010



5811 Comments


Great review, man. A little much on the Microcastle comparisons but definitely a great review. Looking forward to getting this now.

robin
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



4241 Comments


i wanted to do one reference to the EP of last year but thought it'd go over a lot of people's heads. and sorry about that - i tried to contextualise as little as i should

DoubtGin
September 20th 2010



6748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this sounds like an awesome album.. really have to listen to it



WeepingBanana
September 20th 2010



10047 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is sweet so far

Xenophanes
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



10585 Comments


I'm far less enamored of it, but it is still very good

Digging: United Nations - The Next Four Years

rasputin
September 20th 2010



14517 Comments


hoooooly shit, been waiting for this for months, gonna get gonnaaaaa



fantastic review (though you don't need me to say it to know i jizz to your wurds)

robin
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



4241 Comments


still makes me happy

AggravatedYeti
September 20th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nothing like a good robinsmith review to start the day.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2010



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

robin smith oh how i love you

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

Mordecai.
September 20th 2010



8270 Comments


I only have microcastles by this band and it is a fantastic record. this review has inspired to check out more of their albums.

robin
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



4241 Comments


loveheart you guys

joshuatree
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



3743 Comments


album is incredible haven't read review yet

edit: read review. was pure robin. first paragraph was strange but everything else is love

robin
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



4241 Comments


aww i might get rid of / change my opening paragraph since i'm being a little silly.

psyched that you like this album also

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2010



17200 Comments


this album is so incredibly good. i was expecting a lot and cox more than delivered. if it wasn't for high violet this would probably end up my aoty

gaslightanthem
September 20th 2010



5209 Comments


good review, still need to listen to this

dinomania
September 20th 2010



97 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Desire Lines is such a cool song

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2010



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dont nix the first paragraph thats part of why i love it its personal and silly

rasputin
September 20th 2010



14517 Comments


yeah the intro is really great

Knott-
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



10194 Comments


Honey, I'm home!

Happy 100th fantastic write.

Album is awesome.

robin
Emeritus
September 20th 2010



4241 Comments


i'll just do nothing =)

and omg i knew that but forgot when i posted this



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