WVAU Top Music of 2010: #6

Cameron Meindl, Maxwell Tani

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#6 Album: Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

On their followup to 2008‰’s Microcastle/Weird Era Cont., Bradford Cox and his four-piece Deerhunter finally make it to the big leagues with a more mature, sonically diverse album.

Halycon Digest is immediately more accessible than previous Deerhunter records. Gone are the sludgy guitars, distortion, and any of what Cox once called “ambient punk‰” influences. In its place (and in addition to their trademark layers of hypnotic reverb) Deerhunter expands their musical palette, adding harmonicas, melodicas, drum machines, a new vocalist (guitarist Lockett Pundt), and yeah, a saxophone. Cox, who discovered his love for the loop pedal while working on his side project Atlas Sound, loops riff upon riff of guitar, creates a vast-soundscape driven by acoustic guitar that sounds far less Black Lips and far more U2.

Halycon Digest easily outpaces previous releases, and although it is briefly slowed by tracks like Sailing, it quickly regains momentum and leaves Microcastle‰’s meandering moments in the dust. And even when they stop to catch their breath on tracks like Helicopter, Cox allows each crisp note to linger, before letting the chorus sweep you up in a tidal wave of coordinated loops and reverb.

Bradford Cox has listed his influences as everything from Animal Collective to Neil Young. And what Halycon Digest ultimately suggests is that while at first glance the two would seem to have nothing in common, Deerhunter‰’s effortless integration of elements from both Merriweather Post Pavilion and Harvest showcases showcases their strength as expert songwriters, and establishes them as one of the most innovative indie bands to date.

Written by Maxwell Tani

#6 Song: The National – “Bloodbuzz, OH”

The lead single from their 2010 album High Violet, “Bloodbuzz, OH‰” showcases everything that has made The National one of indie rock‰’s most acclaimed bands. An anti-anthem of sorts, “Bloodbuzz‰” portrays characters who aren‰’t exactly “born to run;‰” instead, they are staggering around Cincinnati, dazed and confused.

Like most of the National‰’s catalogue, the song is rife with tension; as drummer Bryan Devendorf‰’s consistently excellent work gives “Bloodbuzz‰” its pulse, droning horns and strings pile on before giving way to Aaron and Bryce Dessener‰’s stabbing guitars. Meanwhile, Matt Berninger continues to deliver memorable lines in his distinctive baritone as melodies subtly reveal themselves with repeat listens. All in all, “Bloodbuzz Ohio‰” stands as one of 2010‰’s most rewarding listens by a band that continues to break away from the pack.

Written by Cameron Meindl