The Joup Friday Album- Deerhunter: Microcastle

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This article is dedicated to former Deerhunter bassist Joshua Fauver, who tragically passed away this past Sunday. Thank you for helping to shape a sound that shaped my music tastes as a whole.

Dreary, gauzy, washed in reverb, and as jangly as jangle pop can get, this is the sound of an indie band hitting it’s stride; becoming a household name for the genre, and proving themselves to be one of the most vital and beckoning forces in indie rock. This is the sound of Deerhunter’s Microcastle, the band’s third album and a record that just celebrated its 10th birthday this past August. In that time this record has inspired a slew of artists in the genre. Microcastle was a gateway for a lot of people to Deerhunter, and for good reason. It’s a lean 12 tracks that sonically wouldn’t have been out of place coming out in the late 70’s/early 80’s, pulling stylistic cues from such diverse places as R.E.M.’s early days, goth rock, and a tinge of krautrock/nu wave. And it still sounds remarkably timeless yet completely modern 10 years later.

The album kicks off with “Cover Me (slowly)”, a shoegaze-inspired instrumental that sees the band really playing around with their delay pedals and features front man Bradford Cox’s vocals washed with so much delay and reverb that it renders his melodies nearly inaudible. This brief opener segues into the lovely but utterly melancholy “Agoraphobia”, a track dedicated to the phobia of leaving the house; it sounds like what suffering from that condition may be like; cozy and at ease but tense and uncertain. The simply strummed guitar lead and Cox’s repeated refrain of “Cover me” are utterly intoxicating and provide a nice lull into Microcastle as a whole.

The midway point of the album features a trilogy of tracks ( “Calvary Scars”, “Green Jacket”, and “Activa”) which are the album’s ambient phase, for lack of a better term. Here Deerhunter focus less on the immediateness of the first part of the album, working more in favor of creating a soundscape. They do so perfectly. Deerhunter have played around with creating more ambient tracks scattered throughout their record previous to this; Cryptograms but the dynamic of having all appear as a small portion of the album was a great move and overall enhances the experience of Microcastle as a whole.

After these tracks we get Microcastle’s biggest highlight “Nothing Ever Happened”, a near six minute opus and maybe the greatest song Deerhunter has ever written. The lyrics are super brief but haunting, talking about the pains of living a life that feels unfulfilled, and putting an utter emphasis on the instrumentation. Most notably the airtight rhythms of drummer Moses Archuleta and bassist Joshua Fauver, ending off with the super angular guitar playing of Cox and guitarist vocalist Lockett Pundt. The results are nothing short of thrilling and immediately demands repeat listening.

If this is your intro to Deerhunter, this is a perfect place to start. Microcastle is Deerhunter at the height of their prowess in every sense; songwriting, instrumentation, and just album craft as a whole. Granted, in my opinion every record Deerhunter has put out is worthy of praise. But there’s a reason this record propelled Deerhunter into the spotlight 10 years ago, and why they’re still so lauded after now. Listen below

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Daniel R. Fiorio

Writer, blogger, record collector/music fanatic, comic book junkie, jerkstore/all around nice dude from the south suburbs of Chicago

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