17 May, 2013

Deerhunter – “Monomania”

MonomaniaWith each album you can hear Deerhunter becoming more and more comfortable with the art of recording music. This album seems to take leaps forward with the their unique style of noisy pop soaked in distortion. For those unfamiliar with their previous releases Deerhunter is a band from Atlanta, Georgia fronted by Bradford Cox. They have a unique blend of poppy guitar melodies blended with distortion, reverb, and many other elements that unfold with each release. They have made quite a name for themselves, despite their recent and brief hiatus and are back in full swing with an amended lineup. This year they are even curating an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, which is quite an honor to be invited to, let alone being chosen to curate an event. Each album, while sharing a similar sound, manages to set itself apart from the others. Their 5th album, titled Monomania is a reference to Cox’s obsessive nature and was written during a very dark period in his life. Monomania, the obsession with a singular thing, person, object, feeling, etc… What is this singular concentration from a man who already comes across as obsessive and neurotic? Dig in and judge for yourself.

“Neon Junkyard” busts the album open with power and intensity, while Bradford sings about “finding the fluorescents in the junk” you find your ears sifting through noise to catch the addictive melodies bursting from within. By the end of the first song, you are hooked and before you know it, guitars and reverb are blasting, both high in pitch and volume, in your ear drowning out all thoughts until eventually the noise takes over and dancing becomes uncontrollable. Which follows seamlessly into “Leather Jacket II”, just digging a little deeper into the noise and just when it sounds like everything is falling apart, we are reminded of the band’s lighter side. “The Missing” (very much like “Agoraphobia” from Microcastle), “Pensacola” (dancy tune about taking a road trip and how you can’t control everything), and “Dream Captain” (getting a little noisier and wanting to get lost without going anywhere) are all enjoyable but easily replaceable songs. They remind us that while Bradford Cox doesn’t always shit gold, whatever comes out is typically still enjoyable. “Blue Agent”, “T.H.M.”, and “Sleepwalking” bring the album to peak, being the most easily enjoyable songs on the album. “T.H.M.” is particularly noteworthy as it starts softly, building momentum with each chorus. Initially it’s just the clapping the gets you moving. By the end of the song when the tambourine, clapping, and what I can only make out to be wheezy coughs filtered through a lot of reverb, all come in full force the only safe thing to be doing is dancing. “Sleepwalking “could be one of the most easily accessible songs on the album, if you are looking to get a taste of their sound with something a little less abrasive. The next three songs, while still enjoyable, aren’t worth much mentioning. This brings us to the end, “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)”, which was mostly recorded by Bradford himself (due to the fact that he was drunk, or “in character” for that song when he recorded the demo and it came out quite confusing). The song carries the band’s darker outlook in hushed tones and closes the album with a beautiful whisper.

In a recent interview Bradford stated that when they went to choose songs for this album he had over 600 songs to choose from. When talking about the songs chosen for the album Cox said “Some of my favorites didn’t make it on the album. Some songs that I didn’t really think were worthy did make it on the album. Some songs that we all though were the best ones didn’t make it on the album. I don’t know how that works.” While we can only dream of how much better everything would have sounded had the band gotten the song they wanted on and a few of the lesser songs dropped off, the album comes out shining. This is easily my favorite Deerhunter album to date, although I am not a die hard fan. In the end you wonder what is this singular thing that he is obsessing over? At times it seems to be another person, or the depressing nature of our existence, however after continued listening I have found what I believe to be the true singular obsession of this album: making me dance.

Review by Cameron Johnson.

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