Deerhunter’s universe has always been one stalked by a sense of displacement and isolation. From the agoraphobia of Microcastle to the anger of Monomania, Bradford Cox and company have canvassed a catalogue of genres and produced some of America’s finest alternative albums.
Fading Frontier is different in attitude, if not quality. Opener ‘All the Same’, with Lockett Pundt’s velvety guitar and echoes of Real Estate, displays a band finally comfortable with themselves, a band that has let optimism seep into their hectic cosmos. The cool, crisp ‘Living My Life’ shows Cox surrendering to the unanswerable existential questions that have haunted Deerhunter for so long.
‘Breaker’, the first duet from Cox and Pundt, is the inevitable result of this ease in the band’s anxiety. With such an unusually uplifting chorus, it’s one of the most accessible pieces of pop from the band to date. Alongside the unabashed funk of ‘Snakeskin’ Frontier shows a Deerhunter ridding itself of its demons and re-entering the world of pop first broached in Halcyon Digest.
Deerhunter do eventually return to the home-comforts of agoraphobia at the close of Frontier with ‘Carrion’ but even here Deerhunter pair the comforts of darkness with a cheerful folksy tune and reaffirm their pop credentials.
Fading Frontier is an album of diverse influences – as detailed in their eclectic concept map for this LP – and subsequently diverse sounds, from the instantly catchy ‘Breaker’ to the eerie disquiet of the dulcimer on ‘Leather and Wood’. What is so remarkable about Deerhunter is their ability to draw these musical contrasts in and tie everything together seamlessly. It is a feat that has meant that even on their seventh album, Deerhunter are still a band with the capacity to surprise. Much less of a surprise is that they have produced one of the strongest records of the year – again.