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Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter

Oct 3rd 2010
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Halcyon Digest - DeerhunterDeerhunter
Halcyon Digest
Score: 53








Ambi­ent indie band Deer­hunter released its fourth album Haly­con Digest at the end of last month. With a list of for­mer band mem­bers that both eclipses its list of cur­rent band mem­bers and is close to as numer­ous as the num­ber of years the band has been active, it is unsur­pris­ing that Deerhunter’s sound on Haly­con Digest is fair­ly frag­ment­ed. Most notice­ably, tracks on the album stray from tru­ly inter­est­ing to absolute­ly abysmal, and most tend towards one end of the spec­trum or the oth­er, leav­ing very lit­tle in the mid­dle.

A sig­nif­i­cant issue with the entire­ty of Haly­con Digest is the lack of diver­si­ty in instru­men­ta­tion. Even as Deer­hunter exper­i­ments with quite a few styles and gen­res, it’s hard to ignore Deerhunter’s ten­den­cy towards sim­ple, synth heavy lines. Part of that is the mediocre record­ing job that makes the synth real­ly pop out as what it is, rather than act­ing as an immer­sive ele­ment, but that’s sim­ply anoth­er fault with the album.

Cox’s voice is quite flu­id on Hal­cy­on Digest - some­times near­ly smoth­ered in ambi­ent waves, oth­er times frank and bright - with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess. Some­times (and in the best moments of Hal­cy­on Digest) Cox does a com­mend­able job car­ry­ing along the tone of the music as a whole, but far too often he instead falls into a tone that does lit­tle but drag on. Many times, it’s that sort of fail­ure to progress that detracts from Hal­cy­on Digest, pre­vent­ing its good moments from being tru­ly great and mak­ing its worst moments large­ly mis­er­able.

Deer­hunter has an inter­est­ing way of writ­ing lyrics - more of a stream-of-con­scious­ness from the mind of Brad­ford Cox than any sort of tra­di­tion­al approach. This cer­tain­ly shows, though in a mix of ways. Often, Cox’s approach comes out well, as with “Desire Lines”, Cox’s slight­ly exis­ten­tial take on life: “When you were young / And your excite­ment showed / But as time goes by / Does it out­grow?” Occa­sion­al­ly, how­ev­er, we’re left with non­sense, like “Mem­o­ry Boy“‘s “Did you stick with me / Let me jog my mem­o­ry / I see you leav­ing / Oh don’t for­get your TV” - unsur­pris­ing giv­en the method of writ­ing, but nonethe­less dis­ap­point­ing when com­pared to some of Hal­cy­on Digest’s oth­er lyrics.

While “Mem­o­ry Boy” can eas­i­ly be fault­ed for its lyrics, it does have the redeem­ing qual­i­ty of being one of the most inter­est­ing tracks on Haly­con Digest - unlike any track that fol­lows it. So then again, as mer­i­ta­ble as the track is on its own, it does have the unfor­tu­nate effect of mak­ing the lack­lus­ter tracks that fol­low it seem even less inter­est­ing. Equal­ly unfor­tu­nate is the fact that those hap­pen to be the final tracks of the album, the end result being a 45 minute album that sounds excep­tion­al­ly long and drawn out.

Hal­cy­on Digest is an odd album - not so much in con­tent as in the way it’s put togeth­er. Deer­hunter has man­aged to put togeth­er an album that skips between excep­tion­al and pedes­tri­an, stim­u­lat­ing and dull, with­out once stop­ping in between. The ques­tion, then: how much of the suc­cess, or indeed fail­ure, of Hal­cy­on Digest is due to that sort of con­stant incon­sis­ten­cy? In the end, it both helps and hurts the album. It’s hard for Hal­cy­on Digest to be a real­ly great album, giv­en the way it hap­pi­ly skips between strik­ing­ly excel­lent and mediocre sec­tions. At the same time, how­ev­er, it’s that same incon­sis­ten­cy that some­times keeps the album inter­est­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s just too much of the mediocre to over­look, and so that’s how Haly­con Digest ends up; a shame giv­en the band’s poten­tial.


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