Deerhunter Tread Melodic With ‘Fading Frontier’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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deerhunterlpTen years and seven albums into their band life, Atlanta’s Deerhunter-Bradford Cox, Lockett Pundt, Moses Archuleta, and Josh McKay- are back with Fading Frontier, a new collection of tunes that finds the band shifting away from the grunge sensibilities of their last album, 2013’s Monomania, and treading in a brighter, more melodic direction. While this still remains somewhat of a challenging listen with a bevy of stylistic shifts and an assortment of cryptic lyrics to parse through, all in all, this album shies away from disorientation in favor of a cleaner, more forthcoming sound. While hardly qualifying as a breakthrough to more mainstream popularity, Fading Frontier could be that album that wins the veteran group some new fans or at the very least serve as a worthy introduction for the unfamiliar. As closer inspection to the lyrical content reveals, frontman Cox is hardly serene. However, perhaps he’s content enough to allow a bit of calmness and tranquility into his music.

Case in point is the opening track “All The Same”. Riding a wave of jangly guitar, whining synths, and a solid backbeat, the song glides along gracefully before its’ repeated releases into a joyous crescendo with each verse’s completion. It’s a solidly confident and concise kickoff for what’s ahead and one of the album’s go-to tracks for repeated enjoyment. From there, it’s a pretty exhilarating ride with nary a hiccup along the way. Crisp keyboards and synths anchor the pop-oriented “Breaker”. The following track, “Duplex Planet” buzzes with an eager and positive vibe despite an ominous opening line: “I don’t ever want to go/Back again to the old folks’ home”. Later, the track “Snakeskin” oozes a street-savvy, 70s-influenced wave of swagger that proves infectiously contagious after a single listen. Elsewhere with the pulsating “Living My Life”, the eerily mesmerizing “Take Care”, and the sci-fi trippiness of “Leather and Wood”, Deerhunter revisits the sinewy grooves that have served as a hallmark of much of their past output and allotted them a seat at the fringes of the electronica table.

There’s a nice touch at the album’s end. As penultimate track “Ad Astra” fades into “Carrion”, a sampling of the traditional American folk ballad, “I Wish I Was a Mole In The Ground”, made famous by Harry Smith’s recording of Bascom Lamar Lunsford in the Anthology of American Folk Music appears. This fitting nod is a measured reflection of the band members’ collective awareness towards musical history and befitting to their own appropriation of the lyric: “In the midnight hour/I will use my power/I will dig my hole/I will become a mole in the ground”. As Cox sings of moving forward in the face of heartbreak and hardship, he mirrors the feelings of the old folk ballad’s narrator in their shared wish for nothingness; they want to appear as invisible and insignificant as that mole, burrowing their way through the day’s events unnoticed. It’s a heavy and emotional sentiment for which to end the album, yet appropriate as a capstone for a work so musically and lyrically pointed.

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