I was a Deerhunter virgin before I had heard Halcyon Digest, although they had been on my radar for some time. There’s something exciting about diving into a new artist without any strong preconceptions, and when the minimal, ambient sounds of Halcyon Digest first washed over me I was immediately intrigued.
Despite the occasional standout track, Halcyon Digest is a mellow album that’s best listened to as a whole. It creates a coherent mood, something increasingly rare in the age of iTunes. If you let the eleven tracks play all the way through, it easily makes a 46-minute playlist without getting boring. Every time the wandering tunes tempt you to zone out, the band hits you with a change of structure that draws you back in. A good example of this occurs in the transition between “Sailing” and “Memory Boy,” where a trailing vocal whimper suddenly collides with cymbals and an up-tempo melody. It is a testament to Deerhunter that the transitions between songs are just as engaging as some of the tracks themselves.
The album’s strongest track is “Coronado,” a dazzling piece that combines bouncy melodies and buzzing, distorted vocals to great effect. The track feels somewhat paradoxically like a blues song with a peppy pace, complete with somber lyrics battling a powerful, emotive saxophone. The lyrics, which deal in vague terms with memories and visions, describe life’s inevitable imperfections with the band’s characteristic minimalism.
On some songs, however, it’s a little too easy to get lost. “Earthquake,” for example, the droning opening track, loops and repeats without developing into anything compelling.
Regardless, Halcyon Digest is a good addition to your music collection. Its solid vocals, compliments of frontman Bradford Cox, and ambient acoustic groove will appeal to anyone looking for something dreamy, and the band’s use of sound effects mixes things up nicely. It’s the kind of album that reveals new surprises with each listen, inviting you to hear new subtleties in their already nuanced sounds.
As for my fellow Deerhunter virgins, enough abstaining. Time to put yourself out there and listen to them. Even if you’re not comfortable the first time, Deerhunter gets better with every listen.
Voice’s Choices: “Memory Boy,” “Desire Lines,” “He Would Have Laughed”