Deerhunter– Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
In deep contrast to last year’s Cryptograms LP, Microcastle opens with a blast of sound that is captivating straight from the beginning. What we have here is a total departure from the Deerhunter of old. Bradford Cox, the band’s frontman, once described Deerhunter as a pop band at heart. This record proves it. “Agoraphobia” truly begins the album after a brief intro, and this time it’s guitarist Lockett Pundt’s voice that we hear first, crooning softly as he sings about being buried alive. This contrast, of melodic hooks met with dark lyrics, is a prevalent theme of the album, as many of the songs here deal with sacrifice, suicide, and ultimately fear.
But what makes Microcastle so incredible is what lies at it’s core. What Deerhunter has done on this album is step back from their more ambient punk-ish experimentation from last year and derive it down to a pop skeleton, all while perfecting their craft as songwriters. “Never Stops” is the perfect single, barley exceeding three minuets, while at the same time keeping you hooked into the catchy melody for every second.
“Nothing Ever Happened” is my personal favorite song on the record, a straight up rock song that brings Deerhunter into new progressive territory. “Neither of Us, Uncertainly” has us contemplating suicide to the soundtrack of a guitar delay pedal, while the closer, “Twilight at Carbon Lake” is a 50’s-ish ballad that ends in complete raw emotion.
And then there’s Weird Era Cont. If you thought that this band was just going to release a slap of B-Sides to go along with a superior record, you were dead wrong. Weird Era is, in some ways, better than Microcastle. “Backspace Century” begins the second disk, while the second track “Operation” has Deerhunter go back to their dance-punk roots, only this time, the results are much cleaner than anything that appeared on their debut Turn It Up Faggot.
Other gems on this album are “Dot Gain”, and eerie anthem that sounds as if it’s being sung by a chorus of child ghosts, “Vox Humana” which fuses 60’s dream pop with Cox’s dark and brooding lyrics, and the closer of the album “Cavalry Scars II/ Aux Out”, which takes us on a 10 minuet journey of build up to distortion excitement.
While listening to this record, we must remember how it got here. The band nearly broke up before recording this album. Microcastle was leaked about six months prior to it’s release, as well as the surprise disk of Weird Era being exposed by a hacker. But what we have after all the blog and band drama is one of the finest sets of records recorded in this decade thus far, and certainly, the best release of the year.