Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

by Alexandra Pett Rating:9.5 Release Date:2010-09-27

It has been a bad year for established bands releasing new albums. Yeasayer's Odd Blood was considered the poor second cousin to All Hour Cymbals, Arcade Fire's eagerly anticipated The Suburbs was critically acclaimed but didn't really generate the same spark as their earlier releases and MGMT's Congratulations fell flat as a steamrollered bagel.Thank the lord then for Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt who, with Halcyon Digest, have finally silenced the 'it's just not as good as the first album' mutterings that have become deafening this year.

Halcyon Digest is smoother than the records gone before, less rocky perhaps but richer in terms of warmth and sound. The whole thing has a vintage feel and sounds like it has been filtered through a Hipstamatic lens. Which seems appropriate as the band say the record is all about snapshots of memory, specifically "the way that we write and rewrite and edit our memories to be a digest version of what we want to remember, and how that's kind of sad."

From the fairytale sinisterness of 'Don't Cry' to the Rydell-High-through-a-hash-haze vibes of 'Basement Scene', it's an album that makes you think of sepia drenched summer days and sticky teenage nights. But each memory is tinged with the knowledge that they are not as glistening as you remember them - you weren't the most popular kid in school, you did have a monobrow and your first time wasn't special. But Halcyon Digest isn't bitter.

'Helicopter' is a typical track: a harp-like synth, lovely, fuzzy sounds contrasted by some really quite sad lyrics: "could you pray for us? We know he loves you the best." 'Earthquake' starts on a Massive Attack tip and makes me think of a heat haze over tarmac, melting ice cubes in a G&T and the feeling of sweat running down the back of your neck.

'Memory Boy' and 'Revival' are catchy, the latter defined by a happy little shaker that is roughed up by a gruff, tough bassline in the chorus. It is detailed and melodic and feels like a real work of art that is composed of many intricate parts. It's a contrast to the simplicity of 'Sailing' which is flooded with watery samples which make the song sound very Alice in Wonderland, giving it a fairytale quality of sweetness and darkness.

'Desire Lines' is the halcyon track of this digest in my view with a chorus set by a wonderful flowing mellow guitar that is completely uplifting. 'Fountain Stairs' is similarly anthemic, especially in the chorus when the drums start pounding and 'Coronado' is all about the atonal piano and the excellently employed saxophone.

'He Would Have Laughed' is another 'moment' on the record: a drum-heavy opening, vertigo-y distortion and weary sounding vocals - "in sweetness comes suffering" - take the track through to a synth-charged finale, which rather touchingly has been dedicated to Jay Reatard.

Deerhunter have never really been in the habit of following in other people's footsteps so it makes sense that they would buck the 'slightly inadequate follow up album' trend. While this record is made more accessible than Microcastle or Cryptograms by employing soaring choruses and a smiley feelgoodness, it's all balanced by a sense of reality - a crunchy chord, truthful lyric or distorted vocal - like there's only one rose tinted lens in Pundt/Cox's glasses. This truthfulness has always been there in Deerhunter's music and is one of the things that makes it so individual. The fact that they're obviously not going to sacrifice it on the altar of commerciality is another reason why Halcyon Digest is a front-runner for my album of the year.

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