By DUBRAY KINNEY
For The News-Letter
Fading Frontier, the seventh studio album released by acclaimed American experimental-rock band Deerhunter, dropped on Oct. 16 and served as a change in pace for a band known to juggle multiple sounds.
The lead-up to Fading Frontier featured much speculation about where the Atlanta band’s sound was headed, especially since their style has changed so much since their 2005 raw, noisy debut LP Turn It Up F****t. This speculation heightened after an unfortunate car accident in which frontman and multi-instrumentalist Bradford Cox was hit by a car and hospitalized.
“When I got hit by the car, I just felt no interest in anything else… I feel like I have no sexuality left,’ Cox said in an interview with Pitchfork.com following the car accident. “I love it. I feel outside of society. But I lost that maniac urge that I used as fuel with [the 2013 album] Monomania.”
Monomania smashed the band’s former work with distorted, Lo-Fi tracks that felt more similar to the garage rock of Ty Segall or The Black Lips (who Cox has worked with in the past). That came in the wake of a four-album period which mixed shoegaze and psychedelic pop with 2007’s Cryptograms, 2008’s dual-album tandem Microcastle and Weird Era Cont. and 2010’s more dream-pop Halcyon Digest.
And here we are. After a two-year period of waiting, Fading Frontier is an album with an undeniably-positive feeling behind it. The experimental sound and variety are still there but there’s a definite poppiness that feels quite different in comparison to the past works of Deerhunter. This doesn’t work to the album’s detriment but rather gives it a triumphant feeling behind strong, emotional lyrics.
Take for example the album’s opener, “All the Same,” and its very first verse: “My home, anywhere expect no comforts save for air / Take it anyway I could leave or I could stay / Wouldn’t matter much to me, much to me.”
The lyrics call back the Pitchfork.com interview and stand as Cox’s statement that he is outside of society. The things that we hold dear, our homes and common comforts, don’t mean anything, and there’s a sense of pride found here, which can be heard in the way these lines are delivered.
The instrumentation is also on-point throughout the album with Cox, drummer and keyboardist Moses Archuleta, guitarist Lockett Pundt and bassist John McKay showcasing their prowess in their own unique ways. This leads to an atmosphere of the album building towards something or coming to some type of head. The next three songs (“Living My Life”, “Breaker” and “Duplex Planet”) are by no stretch of the imagination bad but they lead up to a peak.
That peak comes in the fifth track, “Take Care,” which pulls the album’s positive motions into a sprawling centerpiece that opens the door for a strong second half. The dream-pop-esque influences of the band can still be ascertained from the track but once the bridge hits, there’s a call to the epic, moving portions of some of the better dream-pop-lite bands of the past decade (i.e., M83, I Come to Shanghai, Beach House) with a strong guitar solo.
From here the album’s diversity expands to an even greater extent — from the funky debut single “Snakeskin” to the Lo-Fi-leaning penultimate track “Ad Astra”. If there is one thing that Fading Frontier shows, it’s the range that a 10+ year career has rewarded to Deerhunter.
As the album comes to a close with “Carrion”, Cox sings: “It’s the same big sea / It’s the same to me,” harkening back to the opening track and offering itself as a bookend to the album and perhaps even the interview. It’s a strong statement which defines Deerhunter in their current period.
Currently on tour in Europe, Deerhunter is scheduled to play 14 dates in the U.S. starting on Dec. 4 in Ashville, N.C. and ending in Athens, Ga. on Jan. 9.
The band will stop at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club on Dec. 5. The show will also feature Cox’s solo project Atlas Sound. His most recent album, Parallax, was released in November, 2011.