Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happened”
Years Active: 2001-current
Genre: Shoegaze, Dream Pop, Ambient, Noise Rock
Deerhunter was co-founded by lead singer Bradford Cox and keyboardist/drummer Moses Archuleta in the early 00s. Since conception, they’ve created a wide range of music, moving from a gritty post-punk/noise rock sound, to a softer, cleaner dream pop sound on their most recent recordings.
Their first record, “Turn It UpFaggot,” was released in 2005 following the death of their original bassist. It’s dark, loud, and sounds almost nothing like the rest of their recordings. Bradford Cox has gone on record saying he hates the record and that he’d never record it again. It’s not a bad record by any means but the sound and lyrics show the emotional state of the band, something Cox has a knack for bringing out more often than he should. Sometimes, his emotions get involved even at the expense of the music [which is no more apparent than on “Cryptograms” and “Halycon Digest”]
“Cryptograms” is their second record and shows a clear split in the direction of the band and the emotional state of Cox. The first half sounds dark, and vaguely similar to “Turn It Up Faggot.” The second half is dreamy, hopeful, and at times, pop music [see: Strange Lights.] Cryptograms is laced with a lot of instrumentals, and most are just noisy filler that you can skip. When the album does bring Cox to the forefront though, it’s a pretty cool record, bringing the best of their original and the best of their later sound into one 50 minute adventure.
While I dig Deerhunter’s original sound [present on the first half of “Cryptograms,” and all of “Turn It Up Faggot,”] I really love the second era of their music [present on “Cryptograms” and 2008’s “Microcastle.”] Here, they successfully create some of the best shoegaze/dream pop of the 00s, and probably one of my favorite records of all time [Microcastle]. With “Microcastle,” Cox and co. were finally able to hit their peak, both creatively and critically. They received strong recognition from music festivals, indie blogs, and media outlets, and won over critics and fans. While many criticized “Cryptograms,” for being unfocussed, “Microcastle,” is known for its tight production, honest lyrics, and more conventional song structures. In my opinion “Microcastle,” is the perfect record and has an incredible amount of balance [something I’d argue Deerhunter has never, and probably will never achieve again.] Here, the music is smoother than anything they had ever recorded, yet still sharp enough to be accessible and challenging to fans of all independent music. It was also released with an album of b-sides called “Weird Era Cont’d,” which is filled with lusher production and an even dreamier, smoother sound than “Microcastle.” It can really stand as an album on its own, and its pretty fantastic even for a set of b-sides.
Last year, Deerhunter released “Halycon Digest” to similar critical acclaim. “Halycon Digest” is very Cox-influenced bearing resemblance to his solo project, Atlas Sound. It also has the smoothest production of any Deerhunter record, sounding warm, inviting, and loving…maybe even to a fault. It’s a full on Dream Pop record, and while the lyrics are still strong, and songs like “Coronado,” show Cox and the boys have some tricks still up their sleeves it was a major disappointment for me after “Microcastle.” The dreamy songs aren’t in the same stratosphere as the same ones on “Microcastle” [see: Twilight At Carbon Lake, Neither Of Us Uncertainly], and the edges and musicianship of previous records has vanished.
As far as records to get into…well, you should listen to all of them. I’d start with Microcastle/Weird Era Cont’d, and all of the EPs first [Flourscent Grey, and Rainwater Exchange which are both fantastic.] Halycon Digest is an easier record to listen to, so I suppose that would be the next best to listen to…then Cryptograms, then Turn It Up …
Albums: Turn It Up …, Cryptograms, Fluorescent Grey EP, Microcastle, Rainwater Exchange EP, Halycon Digest
Similar Bands: Atlas Sound is Cox’s solo project; Lotus Plaza is guitarist Luckett Pundt solo project. I haven’t listened to the latter but Atlas Sound is fantastic [specifically ,their first record]
Dope Songs [only 1/3 of the songs I wanted to post from the first record are on youtube, sadly.]
Oceans [Turn It Up …]
Strange Lights [Cryptograms]
Wash Off [Fluorescent Grey EP]
Nothing Ever Happened [Microcastle]
Twilight At Carbon Lake [Microcastle]
Neither Of Us, Uncertainly [Microcastle]
Vox Celeste [Weird Era Cont’d]
Operation [Weird Era Cont’d]
Circulation [Rain Water Exchange EP]
Revival [Halycon Digest]
Desire Lines [Halycon Digest]
Coronado [Halycon Digest]