By the time a band releases a fourth album, the chances of pulling a classic out of the bag begin to diminish. Determined to buck that trend, Georgia’s Deerhunter have delivered. Tantalisingly, they describe their music as “ghost rock”, which is an apt description for these terribly haunting songs.
Each track seems infused with tragedy. Whereas Morrissey had on obsession with failed anti-heroes, Deerhunter tell even darker stories, often romantically brought to life. ‘Earthquake’ begins with a spectral guitar figure but soon both the frontman’s vocal and guitar melody is sucked away whilst ‘Sailing’ is so stark and eerie, partially due to the disturbing noise of what could be a gas leak. They’re not totally downtempo though; ‘Revival’ has its roots in glam rock whilst ‘Desire Lines’ is a heads-down indie rocker.
Then on the eighth track, something very extraordinary indeed happens. ‘Helicopter’ is based on the tragic tale of a Russian wannabe fashion designer who became a star of hardcore gay movies in order to finance his dreams. The story ends inevitably traumatically but Deerhunter use it as an inspiration for an absolutely fantastic song, that is so beautiful, poignant, spine-tingling and chilling that the whole album – great though it is – seems to be building up to this life-changing moment. Not far behind is the final song ‘He Would Have Laughed’, where Bradford Cox sounds at his lowest ebb as the contrasting sound effects seem ever more euphoric.
With the addition of acts like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Deerhunter, 4AD seem to have rediscovered their knack for finding special bands again. What is more, ‘Halcyon Digest’ is a very special album too and a welcome shot in the arm for both dreampop and indie rock in general.
David Bowie, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti