Wednesday, February 13th By: John Campbell
The five-piece Indie Rock band Deerhunter has completed their eighth studio album on the cusp of 2019 called “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?”. After teasing this album with the single “Death In Midsummer” back in October and “Element” in December, they’ve come through with their newest album. Though this band has seen many lineup changes, they’re still pursuing ambitious and intriguing sounds within the genre of Indie Music. Indie Music is a fascinating genre to explore and Deerhunter is not a bad place to start if you’re new to it.
Right off the bat, this album opens with the aforementioned single “Death in Midsummer”. As a complete newcomer to Deerhunter, I was impressed by their artistic direction with the vocal effects and drum sound. It has almost a lo-fi feel to it, and that’s an aesthetic that is revered in more underground artistic spaces. It’s not completely pleasing to listen to, but many people, myself included, sometimes like the vintage sounds of old recording equipment. It evokes nostalgia in some, but for many, it can turn them off the music.
The album as a whole seems to take place in a cave composed of atmosphere. The ambient nature of this band comes through very prominently, though not always clearly. On songs like “No One’s Sleeping” or “Greenpoint Gothic”, there’s just too much to listen to. It’s relaxing as background noise, but music should not be reduced to noise. Even later on the album on “What Happens to People?” and “Tarnung”, the mixing is excellent and enjoyable, so it’s a mystery to me why the instrumental layering went out of control on the earlier tracks.
The sounds on each song however, each have a different approach to the same set of emotions, and that more than anything impresses me. They’re so diverse in their approach to the songs on this album, that I can’t help but applaud their ability to create such unique tracks. They did minimal experimentation on this album, with solely the song “Detournement”. Personally, it’s not very enjoyable to listen to, as the vocal dialogue completely shade the serenading instruments under this hypnotic blanket that failed to impress. The array of instruments used and the sounds produced on this album are vast and sometimes overwhelming. In the instrumental track “Greenpoint Gothic”, there’s just too much to listen to because the instrumental layering is almost chaotic. I normally would hold an instrumental track above most other tracks on an album, but this one just couldn’t cut it. As an instrumental track, the latter half of “Nocturne” was a much better stab at layering instruments in building an ambient mood.
The lyrical content on this album wasn’t the express focus of the songs, and in a couple ways, it’s better like that. The content of the lyrics itself are reflective of the ambience. Either revolving around death, decay or ethereal existence, the lyrics always command emotions of indifference and insignificance. In the song “Death in Midsummer” the lyrics keep talking about fading away and watching the world fade from view, as well as how many people work their lives away. These subject matters aren’t overtly emotional, but are almost urging the listener to spiritually engage with the concept of a higher existence, and to accept that everyone dies and fades.
In “No One’s Sleeping”, vocalist Bradford engages with the listener, citing that there is much violence and unrest in the world we live in, but if you follow me into the ‘Great Beyond’ you will find there is peace beyond our world. It’s interesting to be challenged by these ideas because it almost gets Deerhunter into the arena of Cerebral Music. This album is very lyrically representative of existing beyond the confines of our violent and restless world. I like to think that the album does revolve around this idea of fading or traveling into the great beyond, and I would argue that the lyrics helped achieve that.
In “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared”, there’s this great blend of sounds that stand out to me that may or may not have been intentional. It’s no secret that Bradford Cox likes to mess around with ambient sounds in this band’s discography, even having described themselves as “ambient punk”, but there are some very pleasant blends in this album that continually impress me. In the single “Element” the vocals were performed in a style almost reminiscent of Pink Floyd (specifically ‘Comfortably Numb’). The band’s indie rock songs like “Death in Midsummer” and “What Happens to People” have a very strong Decemberists sound to me. I found myself thinking about “The Crane Wife” while listening to this album in certain songs. In other songs, like “Plains” and the intro to “Nocturne” I was hearing a Twenty One Pilotsinfluence (and even mixed in with the Pink Floyd vocal style), which may or may not have been intentional. I’m not much of a TOP fan, but the way the vocal style was executed in this album, I’m almost happy TOP is around to inspire. Another thing that stood out to me was both “Tarnung” and “Nocturne” in the instrumental parts. They were very similar sounding to some of C418’s work and worked very well in benefitting the album as a whole. Nocturne being the longest track on the album, at a lengthy six minutes managed to dazzle my senses. It was so mesmerizing to listen to and is definitely the strongest track in the album. Nocturne was a great way to end the album on a high note.
In conclusion, this album was surprisingly pleasant to listen to. It had some excellent blends of ambience and other flavors of indie rock. However, some of the songs were forgettable and suffered from average mixing, so ironically they fall off into the space that Deerhunter’s sound seems to be echoing off of in this album.
Favorite Tracks: Element, Nocturne
Least Favorite Tracks: Detournement