This Deerhunter article was written by Nick Palmer, a GIGsoup contributor
Halcyon Digest was their fifth studio album and, unlike most bands after four albums, Deerhunter showed no sign of slowing down or losing its creative edge (even now, after just releasing their seventh, Fading Frontiers). Frontman, Bradford Cox’s Facebook post about the creative origin of the album, teases the overflowing inventiveness and its strong (and strange) emotional core: “The album’s title is a reference to a collection of fond memories and even invented ones, like my friendship with Ricky Wilson [of the B52s, who died when Cox was two] or the fact that I live in an abandoned Victorian autoharp factory.”
Deerhunter are comparable to Radiohead, in being a band that has remained consistently great and inventive over the course of several albums. Halcyon Digest has been highlighted, because it’s just such a creatively-charged and enjoyable album to listen to, and represents a more current flavour of 4AD.
‘Earthquake’ is one of the prettiest openings to an album ever. Beginning by sounding like a machine gradually turning on, with a gentle, stop-start drumline, later joined by a spiralling, dreamy guitar. The music swells towards into the outro, guitars crackling, with Cox asking “How long was he?” over and over.
The garage rock injection comes in with ‘Don’t Cry’, opening with ‘Oh-woah-ohs’ reminiscent of a 50s doo-wop band. Grungy guitars drive the song along at an energetic pace until the end when it finishes with a cut-back and gentle outro.
Deeper into the album, ‘Desire Lines’ stands up confidently and showcases the beautifully intricate guitar playing of both Lockett Plundt and Cox. The second half of the six-minute track is a captivating foray into an almost classical arrangement of duelling guitars, and rivals ‘Earthquake’ in its sheer aural allurement.
Halcyon Digest ends with ‘He Would Have Laughed’, a tribute to Cox’s friend and fellow musician, Jay Reatard, who died in 2010. It’s the longest song on the album, at 7 minutes 29 seconds, but feels the perfect length.
It’s an album which scratches both the pretty dream pop and the harsher garage rock itches, and manages to have them coexist together in a way that feels totally right. It remains Deerhunter’s most consistent album and one of the best releases of the modern 4AD.