Hard to believe that it hasn't even been two full years since Deerhunter unleashed Cryptograms into the world. The ensuing Pitchfork obsession, constant touring and Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound adventure have all left indelible marks on the group.
All of these things read like an impressionist's diary entries lingering between every note, reverberating strum, and coo heard throughout the group's third full-length, Microcastle (Kranky). From the epic, melancholy wail and fading guitar arch that opens the album in "Cover Me (Slowly)," it's plain to see that this is not the same Deerhunter once personified by Cox masquerading in a dress.
Whereas Cryptograms propelled the group into the blogosphere with a full and confident stride, Microcastle is a world-weary album that's somewhat damaged but not disheartened by experience. The album finds the group shedding the shoe-gazer fuzz and aggression of the past, but that's not to say that it doesn't come armed with some incredibly catchy pop hooks.
"Never Stops" and "Saved by Old Times" are bound by a sense of classic pop simplicity so uncomplicated that the subtleties and repeating cyclical structures of each song become addictive. Every second of the album is shrouded in a hue of ghostly and psychedelic fog, but Microcastle is not about sensory overload. It's about nostalgia, reflection and growing up.
With its Stereolab-esque bouts of rhythms and droning, distorted harmonies, "Nothing Ever Happened" is the catchiest song on the record. It's also the album's most complex chapter that bridges the gap between Cryptograms and the here and now.
Despite the simplicities, the songs on Microcastle are rhythmically complex and therefore require patience. As such, the album isn't the best place for Deehunter newcomers to start. But Microcastle is without a doubt a five-star record, and the departure from the avant-garde pop grind of Cryptograms serves the group well.
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