Friday, September 24, 2010

Halcyon Digest

Halcyon Digest as you otter know is the new Deerhunter album. Now this is my first "record review" and I'm not really sure how it's gonna go. To be honest, I don't even like record reviews very much. It's really opinion based and often a lot of stuff that is written off as being mediocre or even bad I really enjoy and the same goes for the opposite.

Anyways, Halcyon Digest is really, really good. If this is your first listen to Deerhunter since Cryptograms (or maybe even Microcastle) you might be suprised. Their sound has changed a lot. However, if you've heard Rainwater Cassette Exchange/seen them live somewhat recently it won't come as much of a shock, as the progression seemed somewhat natural. It's definitely a different sound, less experimental and more garage-y, but it is definitely still Deerhunter (and it's awesome).

Before going more in depth, why dont'cha click on the following link and stream it from NPR so that if you haven't heard it, you can listen along with reading.

Halcyon Digest kicks off somewhat slowly (but surely), with the song "Earthquake". Looped drum samples, swirly swirly ambient sounds and guitars, dreamy reverb-drenched vocals. It lures you into the album, but don't be fooled. "Don't Cry" the next song is more fuzzy-buzzy, washed out garage sounding (no long ambient opening songs like on Cryptograms). It's really got a 60's vibe I think and it's a pretty good listen.

"Revival" the first single released from the album falls into place as the third track. Despite being released way before the actual album came out, it's pretty clear it was written as part of the album and not just a single. Sure, it's catchy, poppy, fun and only a little bit over 2 minutes. It transitions pretty seamlessly from "Don't Cry" and to be honest when I first listened to the album it was a little hard to tell that a new song had started (this is a good thing).

"Sailing" follows next, and it's a sort of abrupt change from the song before. It's an aptly titled song, that drifts along and lulls you into a state of calmness and contentness rather like I imagine taking a boat out onto calm waters on a nice day for a sail and just kicking back and relaxing and maybe with some napping thrown in there would. While a good track, it is a little long and really very sparse, comprised of just vocals and guitar (although the guitar is not continuously present). It actually sounds like it would be more at home on at Atlas Sound album, and doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the tracks.

"Memory Boy", another short, guitar-driven song follows. It's fun, but overshadowed by "Desire Lines", the next track. With an opening that strongly recalls Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" It soon splits off into a more recognizably Deerhunter track. Guitar lines shimmer over chords, drum beats, and a pulsing bassline, bound together with great vocals by Lockett Pundt. The song as a whole is great, but ends with a somewhat disappointing jammy ending (reminiscent of someone practicing scales). It's the "Nothing Ever Happened" of Halcyon Digest and it's awesome. I'm sure that live the jam would be loads better. Possibly my fave song off here.

"Basement Scene" is more of a traditional Deerhunter tune and would have been right at home on Rainwater Cassette Exchange or Weird Era Cont. The vocal melody is great, for the most part and Bradford repetition of "I don't wanna get old" while lamenting that "in the clubs they know my name" , but that "my friends will not remember me" voices the worry of being known, but not really having close relationships with anyone or making an impact in peoples lives.

"Helicopter", another song realeased early by the band, follows. It starts off a little iffy, but gets better and better as it goes along. Shimmery, swirly echo-y guitars, sampled drums, and Bradford's singing all add up to form an uncharacteriscly sad song, which (i am told, but unsure if this is true) is about the true events that formed the death of a teenage gay prostitute in Russia.

"Fountain Stairs" and "Coronado", the next two songs, are both more up-beat, simple guitar based songs. They're both enjoyable but not exceptionally remarkable. What is especially noticeable though (and this is a common theme on the album, but most defined on these two tracks) is that the singing seems to be channeling Julian Casablancas. Is this a good thing? I don't really like the strokes, but the singing definitely works for these songs, especially "Coronado". One thing that sets "Coronado" apart from basically everything else Deerhunter has done is that it has some raging sax in there. It's kinda weird, but actually fits in pretty nicely.

Well, there's only one track left: "He Would Have Laughed". It's a doozy. Definitely a great closing track and incredibly sad. While maybe not the saddest song if listened to somewhat skimming-ly, once you know that it is dedicated to (the late) Jay Reatard and actually listen to it, you realise that it is a lot more than just repeating arpeggios, delay-filled swirly guitar lines, and ambient glow in the background. I don't want to try to go into it more, I feel like I might ruin it. At 7 and a half minutes long, it's by far the longest song on the album, but you ought to find yourself wishing it was longer. It really wraps the album up nicely and is a great closer to a great album by a great band with a consistently great output.

It comes out on September 28 (along with a lot of other albums, including No Age's Everything in Between (it also happens to be my birthday) but once again, you can stream it here (from NPR) in the meantime. It leaked a little bit ago, but I would really ask you to not go and download it. Bradford has shown in the past that he really doesn't appreciate leaks at all and that it can be really disrespectful to artists to download their work before they planned. Also, you should definitely go out and buy this record. It's amazing. Recommend it to all your friends.

- Alec

P.S. Hope you are enjoying the new layout. Daniel really did a great job with the new banner, so props to him.

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