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James Lepinsky is Listening: Deerhunter – “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappared?”

James Lepinsky

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Verdict: Pop and sound is everywhere! Money!

One of the most notable bands to come out of the 2000s indie rock smorgasbord, Atlanta band Deerhunter have always jumped out different styles and genres throughout each release. The band can go funky on one release (Fading Frontier), dream pop on another (Microcastle, Halcyon Digest), make dirty, retro rock and roll (Monomania), and even appear in films (check out frontman Bradford Cox in the film Dallas Buyers Club).

In the earliest days of the new year, Deerhunter has returned with a brand new record called Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? Due to the lengthy title, any further mention of the album title will be condensed with the word “Everything,” because that’s what I feel like the album embodies. Here, Deerhunter experiment with a lot of new sounds that were not previously found in their already diverse back catalog. And for a lot of the songs on this album, their experiments to broaden their instrumental choices makes for compelling pop songs – while other songs detour into experiments that disrupt the flow of the album altogether.

Everything sounds like an expensive record as well. I hear a bunch of instruments that I have not heard on a Deerhunter record before – harpsichord, strings, electric piano, a myriad of synths. This makes up for a more sonically adventurous album than any other previous effort, which is a good thing overall, but some of these “adventures” do not always make up for compelling songwriting. For example, the spoken word interlude “Détournement” feels a little awkwardly placed in between a streak of some of the best tracks from the album, “Element”, “What Happens to People?” and “Futurism”

Meanwhile, “Element” is probably the catchiest song Deerhunter has ever recorded. This song is the main reason I was interested in a new Deerhunter record to begin with. Definitely the strongest pop song on this album and a song I will definitely return to later down the road. I love the use of harpsichord as the main melody, as well as the string section in the background. “Element” also has a very clever bass-line and chord progression. What can I say? I love this song.

The album’s closer, “Nocturne”, is a spacey ballad with a nice touch of Wurlitzer and a hypnotic outro to match. I think the stuttering effect on Cox’s vocals is very interesting, but makes the lyrics indecipherable, especially considering how the song is about “how to cope with today’s horrifying news cycle,” according to the album’s liner notes.

Songs like “Greenpoint Gothic” offer a very interesting production and arrangement choice for Deerhunter. It sounds like something Kraftwerk or Gary Numan would make back in the day with its driving synths and rocking rhythms.

Is this the best Deerhunter album so far? I don’t think so, but I also find it hard to compare to the band’s back catalogue. Sonically, Everything has common ground with the best moments in 2010’s Halcyon Digest, albeit a bit more polished and clean than that album. Everything could have definitely benefitted from a slight change in track listing, since a lot of the songs by themselves are great but suffer from a bit of in-cohesion once the next track comes in. I personally prefer the dusty, dirty rock of Monomania, but was pleasantly surprised by Everything. But it’s certainly a grower. Take the weird spoken word interlude, the song “Tarnung”, and I’ll take the ambitious arranged pop songs that Deerhunter have to offer on Everything.

Best tracks: No One’s Sleeping, Element, Futurism, Nocturne

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James Lepinsky is Listening: Deerhunter – “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappared?”