Tag Archives: Deerhunter

“Isn’t”… in a good way.

Deerhunter’s promo campaign was covert and clever and involved a little person. This only serves to highlight my anger and dejection at having not been a part of it. I missed it! I missed the opportunity to be part of the brilliant xerox art poster posting challenge and the chance to scotch tape pictures of one of my favorite bands all over the cow sheds and tractors and shooting ranges (I am kind of lying here… there is actually only one shooting range, but I hate varying quantifiers in lists) of my sleepy German town.

Fortunately however, despite my inaction/ignorance I have still had the truly enjoyable experience to listening to the new single off of what will undoubtedly be the aptly titled ‘Halcyon Digest’. After last years release of the almost flawlessly beautiful ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ I have waited with bated breath for any small hint of Deerhunter’s impending LP. I wondered which of the diverse and novel musical elements presented in the EP would translate to the full length album.

“Revival” is many things. It includes many of the percussive elements I loved in songs like “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” and “Game of Diamonds and gives the song and admirable groovy-ness. The vocals, although not totally clean are much more clear and crisp than previous efforts. These elements compound to create a dreamy yet lucid and surprisingly accessible listen.

However none of the things I’ve just written really express the images I see while listening to this song (cue “Dancing about architecture” quote interchangeably attributed to Miles Davis, Elvis Costello or Frank Zappa… this is a fun fact), so I will describe said images via the medium of language.

Bradford and Co. are fasting on a Mesa  (a side note: they are wearing ponchos). You can tell they are fasting because the thought bubbles above their heads contain nothing but big-macs and carrot cake and other such cholesterol rich comestibles. Every night they make a fire and wait for a “great spirit” descend upon them. It never does. They weep. Although their persistence is admirable, enlightenment only comes when one of the Deerhunter men catches sight of his friend in the clear blue water surrounding the flat mountain. They raise their hands, rejoicing in their connection to the greater consciousness through their acknowledgment of being lesser parts of a whole. Bright glowing light shines from their pores like splashing rain and engulfs them. It spreads over the mesa, and then the countryside and then the whole world. It is beautiful. Everyone hugs everyone else. The end.

So. Ahem. That was weird; but it’s the best I can do at the moment. This song isn’t your typical Deerhunter, but it “isn’t” in a good way. I suppose the title “Revival” is quite appropriate and, come to think of it, song titles serve more than a decorative purpose.

Revival – Deerhunter

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Dragons R Kewl

Ahhh where to start. Well first of all Ming Long’s project has a pretty awesome name: Radiant Dragon. The name fits. This music is dreamy, layered and as colorful as it can possibly be. Frost Satellite sounds like a Disneyland boat ride (think “It’s a Small World” just not in the musical sense, thank God) on acid, like you’re floating through all of these amazing and vibrant environments with your friends and it’s relaxing and beautiful and fun all at the same time.

Seriously guys, this is the real deal. Think streams of multicolored euphony and birds of purest spun heavenmetal and so on and so forth. It’s horizon-broadening. So much music tries to do what Radiant Dragon is effortlessly doing. It’s got these really solid hooks and breakdowns that suck you into the songs, but it’s all covered in a hazy, orchestral synth gauze so it’s not exactly alt-pop or electronica, it’s just to the left of those genres levitating comfortably in its own little sphere.

Additionally the vocals are pretty buried in the mix so the emphasis here is definitely on the production and the arrangement. This is for good reason. Believe me, I’m not trying to hate on Ming Long’s vocals, but the undeniable selling point of this music is the instrumentation. If Radiant Dragon’s brand of chilled out electronic-pop is not to your taste then you can at least admire his music for its flawless composition. But then again, if this music isn’t to your taste you’re probably an idiot and we can’t be friends anymore.
Radiant Dragon – Frost Sattelite

Radiant Dragon – Preseli

And so we’ve reached the end…

Well here we are again, at that wonderful time of year that has us all family oriented and warm and reminiscent. As I sit here in my bed with quilts up to my ears and a warm cup of cocoa on my side table, I can’t help but feel optimistic for the coming days. This year was both trying and rewarding for me, through the microcosm of this blog and in my personal life. One of the most trying tasks I’ve undertaken thus far was narrowing down by “best of” list for this year. The sheer volume of music that I’ve been exposed to has made this hard enough, but then there’s the fact that most of it, amazingly, was brilliant.

In any case, I won’t bore you with the details of scouring my iTunes library and re-visiting albums from earlier in the year. Instead I’ll just commence with the list! Happy holidays!

10. Rewild – Amazing Baby

To be honest, I feel a bit bad putting this album last. It really was, in my opinion, a great record. The production was flawless with its intricate string arrangements and layered synths. I found something new and interesting after each listen. My only real problem with this album was not with its execution, but with its scope. I feel that since there’s been a sort of neo-psychedelic revival, these guys needed to really reach and “push the envelope” of their sound. This isn’t to say that the album is uninteresting, I believe it is quite the contrary. However, I couldn’t help but feel like there were missed musical opportunities.

Roverfrenz – Amazing Baby

9. Two Suns – Bat For Lashes

If I lived in a fairy commune with a unicorn overlord, I think Natasha Khan would be, like, the queen. She just oozes this creative self-assurance and transcendental understanding and that definitely informs her music. It leaves nothing to be desired, exploring all sonic possibility and weaving vast dreamscapes to lose yourself in. Two Suns is a much more cohesive effort than Fur and Gold, although it lacks the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that made songs like What’s A Girl To Do? soar (remember that verse in the chorus: “When your dreams are on/A train to train wreck town”?). Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful, ethereal listen.

Siren Song – Bat For Lashes

8. True Romance – Golden Silvers

From the minute I laid eyes upon the swirly intricate purple and gold album artwork of True Romance, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites for this year. I mean, how could anyone in their right mind resist Golden Silvers’ witty mix of nostalgic doo-wop and 80’s pop? True Romance was my go-to song this summer, and for good reason. Golden Silvers are fun and smart, two things everything (people, music, cake etc.) should aspire to be.

Arrows of Eros – Golden Silvers

7. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

This album, Karin Andersson’s (you know, the female half of The Knife) crazy side-project, was one of the best musical WTF moments of the year. When I chanced upon the music video for When I Grow Up earlier this year, I was utterly confused. “What is this?” I wondered, totally bewildered by what I had just seen, “Is this electronica, or pop?” I questioned, “Why is that girl dancing over a pool?” I still don’t really know the answers to those questions, but there’s no denying that Fever Ray is different, lively, and crazily danceable at some points. With its quirky sampling, cryptic lyrics, and creepy undertones Fever Ray is sure to be an album you need to revisit.

Triangle Walks – Fever Ray

6. Logos – Atlas Sound

Shelia is just, just one of those songs that grabs hold of your imagination and won’t let go. You find yourself singing it absent-mindedly to yourself and making it your internal life-soundtrack when traversing snowy streets. In a lot of ways, Logos, as a cohesive effort is the same. It’s pop music, but not quite. It’s dreamy and airy and childish all at the same time. At some moments though, My Halo for example, it’s dark and brooding. However, it never leaves you in that scary place for too long. I may be a bit biased since I kind of love anything Bradford Cox lays his hands on, but there’s something undeniably endearing about his brand of screwed up transcendentally melodic pseudo-pop.

Shelia – Atlas Sound

5. Album – Girls

I was fortunate enough to be tipped off about this crazy San Francisco duo by Gerlin, and seriously, thank you Gerlin because this album is like, wow. On a theater trip in London earlier this year, Lust For Life became our theme song, blaring as loud as we could possibly make it from our home-made cup speakers. Album is pretty much the crowning jewel on the lo-fi crown for this year, epitomizing that carefree, slightly-crappy but lovable sound that seems to be coming exclusively from California recently.

Laura – Girls

4. Merriweather Post Pavillion – Animal Collective

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m not about to prostrate myself before a shrine to Noah Lennox and sacrifice a baby with Brother Sport playing in the background. No sir, not that crazy yet. What I will say is this album was, categorically, awesome. It’s like synthy, loopable gold flowing all through your head and making you wanna dance like a lunatic. It’s also amazing from start to finish. No half-assed attempts or fillers here. It’s just 54 minutes and 42 seconds of masterfully crafted electronic bliss. If your friends are anything like mine, you will have had constant arguments about which song is best, but in the end it really doesn’t make a different because they’re all so fucking amazing.

But for the record guys (you know who you are), My Girls = WIN

My Girls – Animal Collective

3. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors

I will express my love for this album in the form of haiku:

Dirty Projectors,
Solange Knowles covered your tune?
Massive respect dudes.

But seriously, this album deserves some major kudos. Not only is this Dirty Projector’s most accessible album to date, it might just be their flat out best. Longstreth’s guitar acrobatics along with his girl’s warbling, ghetto-songbird-esque vocals leave you with cool tunes that are as suited to your local indie club as they are to a chilled our party at your friend’s house.

Useful Chamber – Dirty Projectors

2. Here We Go Magic  – Here We Go Magic

I think that this was the album that I anticipated most this year. From the minute I heard Fangela, I was hooked. The crazy soundscapes that Luke Temple manages, almost single-handedly, to create are all-encompassing and deeply engrossing. The lo-fi edge of the record almost serves a foil to the intricacy of the melodies and arrangements, while simultaneously giving the record a homey, accessible feel; like the record was a demo from a ridiculously talented friend working out of his basement. I absolutely LOVE this record, and know that I will be immersing myself in its wonderful melodies for years to come.

Tunnelvision – Here We Go Magic

1. Fits – White Denim

Call it bias, call it lack of musical taste, but I am totally committed to spreading the gospel of Fits. Not only do you get 24 tracks for $10 on the extended American release, but basically every song is this amazing, in-your-face psychedelic rock explosion that will leave you breathless and energized. In a scene where a lot of music is over thought and overproduced, White Denim are wonderful glowing monsters ready to shake things up and present something awesome.

Regina Holding Hands – White Denim

Most Promising EPs (in no particular order):

1. Mystery – BLK JKS

2. Rainwater Cassette Exchange – Deerhunter

3. Life of Leisure – Washed Out

Have a kick-ass new year everybody!

Never Stops…

Ever hear that saying “never meet your heroes”? For the longest time, I believed that. It seemed like, with a few exceptions, whenever I would meet a “hero” of mine, something would go wrong. Either I would say the wrong thing, or the person would just not live up to my decidedly unrealistic expectations, and everyone would go home disappointed and grumpy.

Yeah that sucks right?

Now I’m not going to go all John Hughes on you here and reveal my teen coming-of-age story, but I’m not so sure I believe that saying anymore because of one Bradford Cox. But I should start at the beginning.

Deerhunter+DSC02322

When my friend KG and I tentatively stumbled into the small central Munich club where we were to see Deerhunter, we feared that we would be the only ones at the concert. This idea was equal parts scary and exciting. There was no line at the entrance when admission began, and for about an hour before the show the club was all but deserted.

As the night wore on more people began to trickle in and fill the space. It goes without saying that the club was never packed, but as we neared the performance time the anticipation grew; almost crackling in the air. As KG and I sat on a bench in the back of the club trying to keep low profiles but failing due to our boisterous and creepy personas (we were intimidated by the crowd which seemed populated exclusively by well dressed non-creepy university students), I saw a small frail looking man with a moose bag and an old “My Appalachian Heritage T-shirt” wander into the club looking more like a lost child than a rock star. No sooner had I realized that this man was none other than Bradford Cox (the lead singer of Deerhunter) than he was apprehended by an official looking woman who led him to a backstage area.

Soon however, he reemerged along with his other three band-mates, and then, as it seems is Deerhunter’s humble custom, they set up their own instruments. Bradford complained about how the blue light made him “want to puke” and how the drums sounded like “a box of nails”, to our great amusement. Then, after the majority of the technical difficulties were ironed out, and without ado, they began to play.

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The first song, Cryptograms, was technically perfect. Bradford’s voice was sufficiently eerie and disembodied and his band-mates played well, but it was obvious they had not “won us over yet”. Their start had been too casual for anyone to be in the right mindset to enjoy their dreamlike music properly. The next song, Never Stops, was a completely different story. As one of my favorite tracks off of Microcastle, I was super excited to hear it live and it definitely did not disappoint. More guitar driven and intense than the album version, I think I actually appreciated this song more live.

After the next few songs Bradford took a minute to talk with the audience. The following conversation is transcribed here for your enjoyment and needs no introduction:

Bradford: How is everyone tonight? [applause and random yelling] Good! Well we love Munich, we really do… Can you guys understand anything I’m saying?”

Crowd: Yes!

Bradford: Oh OK then, well do guys just not care? [stifled laughter] No it’s ok, I’m used to rejection, my whole life has just been a series of rejections.

The following music would prove to completely contradict that statement. Hazel St. was absolutely beautiful, and the next song Rainwater Cassette Exchange, despite the fact that one of the drummer’s drums fell over, was one of the highlights of the night with it’s chilled but slightly groovy beats and Bradford’s fluid vocals.

Although the music was the focus of the evening, one of the best parts of the gig was Bradford’s interaction with the audience. In contrast with Deerhunter’s often heady, dense melodies, Bradford’s demeanor between songs was casual and jokey. His childish and self-deprecating commentary made you feel as if you were in on some amazing inside joke, and that instead of the unapproachable demi-gods most rock groups try to portray themselves as, the Deerhunter boys could be kids from your school or close friends. That kind of honesty was amazingly refreshing. One particularly hilarious moment occurred shortly after Rainwater Cassette Exchange. While the drums were being fixed, Bradford decided to have a conversation with the sound man…

Bradford: OK Guys, so my Dad’s doing our sound tonight. Can you just say something Dad?

“Dad”: You need to hurry up and finish this set so you can clean your room.

Bradford: What Dad? I’m not grounded, you’re grounded.

“Dad”: Now you listen here son…

Bradford: Dad you’re a [censored]ing [censored]er. I’m going to steal your weed again and jerk off to your playboys.

“Dad”: I [censored]ed your mom.

Bradford: It’s legal that you [censored]ed my Mom because you’re my [censored]ing Dad!

Yeah… I know

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After that beautiful exchange the boys threw themselves into the second half the set which included Cover Me (Slowly), Agoraphobia, Operation and Circulation. Although Agoraphobia was the real highlight of the show for me (it’s my favorite song from Microcastle) Operation was the crowd pleaser, provoking three drunk friends to dance awkwardly yet entertainingly near the front of the stage.

The set ended, like it began, without fanfare or adulation. The band simply thanked us for showing up and began packing up their instruments. As Bradford put away his pedals near the corner of the stage, I summoned up the courage to go speak with him, the familiar adage  found at the beginning of this post repeating maliciously in my mind. Struggling to find words to describe the quality of the music we had just experienced I simply thanked him for playing my favorite song. Our exchange was brief, but it meant alot that he would take the time out to speak to anyone who wanted to talk, especially nerdy old me.

So there you have it. I met someone I deeply respect without insulting their family (like I did to David Sedaris) or asking them a ridiculous question (like I did to Noel Fielding). I shook their hand and looked them in the eye. The concert was amazing, and although I’ve tried I don’t think I could adequately express the gorgeousness of being immersed in the soundscapes those four men were able to create.

Instead, I guess I’ll end with some advice:

1) If Deerhunter come to your town/city/commune, GO! You will have a good time even if you’re not a hip, mature college student.

2) Don’t be afraid to meet your heroes. They could turn out to be just as cool as you think they are.

Mad props to KG for the photos, ticket purchase, and general awesomeness.