Deerhunter

    {grate 4.5}

    The album will never die. I don’t care about iTunes’ influence or the fact that no one pays for music anymore — there’s still classic comfort and elegance in a thoughtful arrangement of songs whose sum is greater than its parts. Deerhunter’s third LP Microcastle is album validation without indulgence, a hallucinogenic and reflective love letter to the Strokes, and one of 2008’s bests. This time ATL’s odd garage quartet ditches the overwrought ambient tracks that bogged down ’06’s Cryptograms, cleans up the noise (unless they needed it for dramatic effect) and embraces artistic concision that could only come from experience.

    Microcastle fits together like a Lego kit, dependant on each piece to support the structure and imbue it with character. Intro segue “Cover Me (Slowly)” establishes a lethargic and contented tone of tremolo vox and lazy snare hits. Without it, the following “Agoraphobia” wouldn’t have nearly the same hypnotic impact — its refrain of “Cover me/ comfort me” is deceptively simple but will wear out your brain from contagion, and the song’s jangly guitar arpeggios don’t overwhelm the vocals. Every role in DH is so attuned that nobody overpowers the rest. Although lead singer/guitarist Bradford Cox may be Deerhunter’s damaged visionary, guitarist Lockett Pundt contributes some low-end vocal mystique and sleepy-eyed bassist Josh Fauver collabs with precision drummer Moses Archuleta to create a driving rhythm section without excess.

    And then there’s the title track, creeping along for a couple minutes with Cox’s croon and some bright strumming, before all four jump in to punch you in the skull over and over so that you’re forced to headbang.

    Although Microcastle has three-song cycles from Cox’s oft-visited teenage persona, a batch of immediate gems that could all be singles and a closer that saves all the real noise for the record’s last minutes, Deerhunter’s alienation and dread are best summarized by “Calvary Scars”’ sole lyric: “Crucified on a cross in front of all my closest friends.” Georgia’s lauded four-piece may have polished itself shiny with clean settings and charming melodies, but just below the sheen is a weirdness that most folks would never back. Watch yourself Radiohead, cause another compound word just threw the gauntlet.

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