Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest

Artist: Deerhunter

Title: Halcyon Digest
Release date: September 28
Label: 4AD

Love this record. Totally unfamiliar with the band's previous output but was under the impression they were a confrontational, noisy, quasi-experimental outfit. Turns out, Deerhunter are pure pop. Granted, it's art-damaged pop, but it sounds fantastic. Like a thousand other bands you've heard before yet hardly derivative. For that, Halcyon Digest is a pretty great achievement. It reeled me in from the first note.

The Georgia band writes deceptively simple tunes that often branch off from a repetitive bass line or bare-bones guitar figure. They dabble in British psychedelia, sunny California pop, Britpop, American post-punk, 1980s Aussie pop, and the "flower punk" of Deerhunter contemporaries such as Black Lips. I hear such disparate influences as T. Rex, The Chills, Johnny Thunders, The Everly Brothers, The Clean, The Fall, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and huge doses of Syd Barrett and Phil Spector. Somehow, it all melts together and, as I said, comes off as secondhand yet fundamentally new. 

It's exciting stuff, instantly engaging, shape-shifting, and unassumingly announcing to the listener, "You're listening to something special." Indeed, the record simply sounds good, and the songs demand your attention because there's twists and turns and an overall buoyant feel. 

I'm not sure what messages are hiding in Bradford Cox's lyrics (his vocals, often manipulated by various effects, can be difficult to understand), as they seem the product of a stream of consciousness. Cox doesn't possess a conventionally good voice, but his flat, weary stabs at melody drip with pathos, a level of sadness that tempers the music's inherent poppiness.

Truth to tell, I can't really say what Deerhunter's all about. For as many familiarities as there are in these songs, the band's music is fairly inscrutable. And right now, I'm digging on the mystery in this band's music. If you've heard it, let me know what you think. Should I check their past records? I know I'm really looking to what comes next.

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Deerhunter - Desire Lines

Best song: The nearly seven-minute "Desire Lines." But there's a not a clunker on Halcyon Digest 

Rotation: Heavy. 

Deja Vu: A drive through the desert. 

I'd rather listen to: Dream Syndicate's The Days of Wine and Roses 

Grade: A

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

The "Nothing Not New" Archives

September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)

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