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Album Review

The narcotic drones and fragmented art punk Deerhunter explored on Cryptograms made the album a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for many indie rock fans; where some heard eclectic expansiveness, others heard incoherent experiments. Microcastle, the band's first album with guitarist Whitney Petty, brings together the disparate elements that made Cryptograms fascinating and frustrating, adding a little more pop and quite a bit more studio polish (this album was recorded in a week, as opposed to the two days it took to lay down Cryptograms). Deerhunter still change from gentle to storming at a moment's notice, as on "Microcastle" itself, which drifts along like a slow-motion surf rock ballad, then catches fire about two-thirds of the way through, and the album's middle stretch of songs is just as lulling as Cryptograms' opening suite, but a lot more melodic. These fever-dream moments are punctuated by pop songs that are as crystal clear as they are warped. The trippy innocence of '60s psych pop is a major influence on Microcastle, especially "Little Kids"' jangly guitars and sparkling strangeness, and the acid pop flashback "Saved by Old Times," which is slinky and mischievous enough to be a spiritual cousin of Donovan's "Season of the Witch." Bradford Cox and company get even more accessible on the bittersweet "Never Stops" and the excellent "Nothing Ever Happened," which lets zigzagging guitars and keyboards tussle over one of Microcastle's most memorable melodies. Guitarist Lockett Pundt's songs balance Cox's extremes, with "Neither of Us, Uncertainly" nodding to the album's hazier moments and "Agoraphobia" blending in with its crisper songs. When "Twilight at Carbon Lake" swells from a hallucinatory '50s slow dance ballad into a triumphant storm of guitars, Microcastle proves that Deerhunter can make music that sounds very different from what they'd done before, yet still feels of a piece with their body of work. [Microcastle was also released with Weird Era Continued, an album of bonus songs that plays like Microcastle's mirror twin: tracks like "Vox Celeste" and "VHS Dream" put the angular pop first and experimental haze second. Taken as a whole, Microcastle/Weird Era Continued, Rovi


Formed: 2001 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Deerhunter are an experimental noise rock band from Atlanta, fronted by the compellingly odd singer Bradford Cox. Cox's vocal style blends vocal experimentation along the lines of Meredith Monk or Yoko Ono with a more direct and punky howl inspired by the Fall's Mark E. Smith. Cox is also a striking on-stage presence: the exceedingly skinny 6'4" lead singer has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue that gives him abnormally long and spindly limbs. (The late Joey Ramone was...
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Microcastle, Deerhunter
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