Deerhunter - Fading Frontier LP
At one point on Fading Frontier, Bradford Cox sings "Take your handicaps/Channel them and feed them back/Until they become your strengths." It's a phrase that could be Deerhunter's motto; they've always excelled at celebrating misfit people and feelings, and never more so than on this album. Recorded in the wake of the accident that hospitalized Cox in December 2014, in some ways it feels like the band hit the reset button on Fading Frontier, which is as different from Monomania as that album was from what came before it. Aside from the slinky, disco-tinged outburst "Snakeskin," which could be the last remnant of Monomania's toughness, Fading Frontier hews closer to the sound the band forged on Microcastle and Halcyon Digest. Though they collaborated with Stereolab's Tim Gane and Broadcast's James Cargill -- both of whom know a thing or two about making weightless, introspective music -- "All the Same" casts a jangly spell that hovers between raucous and poignant and is classic Deerhunter. After Monomania's chaos, Fading Frontier's shimmering sonics bring literal and figurative clarity to the band's music, serving as reflecting pools for their meditations on seizing the moment -- and mourning the ones that they missed. They do both beautifully on the Cargill-assisted "Take Care" and the gorgeous "Breaker," where Cox sighs "When I die/There will be nothing to say/Except I tried not to waste another day." Cox returns to his obsession with memories on "Duplex Planet," as Gane's harpsichord adds a prickly edge to lyrics like "In your head you will fall asleep/And then you won't remember me." Nevertheless, the optimism bubbling under the melancholy makes Fading Frontier all the more affecting. "Living My Life" is one of Deerhunter's most gently joyous-sounding songs yet, a blissful synth pop reverie that caresses where Monomania sneered. And while "Carrion"'s reflections on enduring endings aren't exactly happy, their resilience is emblematic of Fading Frontier as a whole: Musically and emotionally, this is one of Deerhunter's most powerful -- and delicate -- albums.