Indie band Deerhunter – Bradford Cox, Moses Archuleta, Josh Fauver, and Lockett Pundt – return with a fourth album that allows listeners copious glances backward at musical styles of pop eras past. These are all refracted through a current day prism that also accommodates more recent sounds from the worlds of lo-fi, garage, and indie rock.
Indeed, the breadth of musical signatures referenced is truly remarkable. Bradford Cox can plausibly move from singing with the grit of a classic rock frontman on the sax-laden Sixties-sounding “Coronado” to gently crooning a ballad worthy and reminiscent of Buddy Holly at his most reflective on the Fifties pop referencing “Sailing.” Some regions of the album, such as the thumping percussion of “Earthquake” and the motoric beats and hazy atmospherics of “Helicopter” recall Cox’s experiments in his Atlas Sound side project. Other tracks, like “Desire Lines” and “Revival” are crisply rendered pop songs with memorable hooks.
The album’s closer, “He Would have Laughed,” is a seven and a half-minute long homage to the recently departed indie icon Jay Reatard. Here, the band never overplays their hand, allowing what begins as a minimal alt-folk ballad to organically evolve, blossoming into a shimmering and abundant chamber pop essay: an eloquent musical tribute to a friend who died too young.
Halcyon Digest is certainly Deerhunter’s most ambitious, and arguably their best, album to date. Recommended.