Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest

Genre: Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

Recommended for: Fans of Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala, Beach House, Animal Collective

Thoughts: This week (October 23-29) is Asexual Awareness Week. In honor of our community, I picked Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter, a band fronted by asexual musician Bradford Cox. I want to honor his work in music, but I love this record enough that it doesn’t need any special treatment.

Much of Deerhunter’s work surrounds the criticism of nostalgia—what it is and where it leads us. It’s interesting that here, relatively early in the band’s career, their confusion on the matter seemed only to pin it down more accurately. Sonically this manifests through hazy, sun-baked guitar lines, and dream-pop-inspired passages on songs like “Earthquake,” sleek and shiny yet peppered with disharmonies. Cox’s vocal delivery can sometimes seem detached and ambivalent, but alongside reminiscent undertones, it is this that underpins a fundamental uncertainty about the past. In “Memory Boy” Cox makes several attempts at remembering anecdotes with his old friends, trying to reminisce, but always ending in frustration as the memory collapses. Repetition of “it’s not a house anymore” after each memory represents these constructions falling apart, while the instrumentation becomes increasingly frantic, culminating in the chant “Try to recognize your son / In your eyes he’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.” “Desire Lines” paints another dark picture of memory, one that contrasts youthful excitement with youthful uncertainty, behind a seriously catchy chorus in which guitarist Lockett Pundt takes over the vocals. 

The second half of the album is spurred by “Basement Scene,” a song divided by a tonal shift as the narrator readies himself to awake from the dream of eternal youth, living in his childhood while he ages, hiding from the anxiety of feeling he will go unremembered. “Coronado” lyrically corroborates this, cementing the shift towards a darker tone. However, the saxophone disputes this, allowing for the seeds of ambiguity to germinate as the album comes to a close. In the finale, the incredible “He Would Have Laughed,” Bradford Cox presents seven verses, each one a different possible reflection on childhood, distorted, confused, within an eight-minute frame as each list on the bulletin—the eponymous Halcyon Digest—fall into line and then dissipates. It is in some ways an elegy to memory. But it also reflects how we distort our memories, looking back at the past with a borrowed, projected fondness, a beautiful guitar riff folding over and over itself before it falls into silence.

Favorite Songs: Revival, Memory Boy, Desire Lines, He Would Have Laughed

Least Favorite Songs: I love them all, but possibly Sailing

Rating: 9.5/10