Deerhunter’s seventh album enchants
Fading Frontier’s recipe for dreamy pop-rock is a winner
Album: Fading Frontier
Release Date: October 16, 2015
On its seventh full-length release Fading Frontier, the American indie-rocker band called Deerhunter brings listeners to a dreamy world of psychedelic-tinged pop-rock.
Contrasted with the raw, dark feel of Deerhunter’s previous offering Monomania (2012), Fading Frontier exudes a reflective melancholy that helps create an intimate experience between artist and audience.
Emerging from serious injuries and a tumultuous emotional period after a car crash, Deerhunter’s singer, songwriter and composer Bradford Cox told Pitchfork, a music media magazine, how the injuries he sustained helped him refocus his energy into a desire for “peace and quiet.”
This shift in Deerhunter’s creative mindset comes through on the more mellowed out sounds and contemplative themes of Fading Frontier.
Rich tones, synth swells and lo-fi percussion project an expansive ambience over which Cox’s voice floats with unassuming charm. Deerhunter’s nuanced vocal melodies carry well throughout the album’s soundscape of synth and electronics.
Walking a fine line between dissonance and harmony, vaguely unsettling at some parts and simply strange at others, Fading Frontier remains melodic enough to be thoroughly pleasant.
The album kicks off with straightforward rock on “All the Same,” a decent Beatles-esque number.
Despite a strong opening track, the hypnotically catchy chorus and airy electronics of the second song “Living My Life,” is the first real highlight of Fading Frontier.
Pieces like the mystical-leaning “Ad Astra” and heady “Leather and Wood” confirm that, even with Fading Frontier’s pop leanings, the strong psychedelia that characterized Deerhunter’s earlier works remains firmly in place.
Despite the album’s cohesiveness and the absence of weak tracks, Fading Frontier drags from time to time, sometimes getting lost and meandering in its own spacy recesses.
Some of the album’s strongest moments are its most straightforward ones, as illustrated on the stellar single “Snakeskin.” Roused from sedation by a bouncy drum groove, the moody “Snakeskin” propels Fading Frontier into adventurous territory with an emphasis on naturalistic, acoustic sounds.
Lyrically, Fading Frontier is a deeply confessional work. Cox’s wistful lyrics explore personal doubts with a poetic vulnerability that doesn’t shy away from the dismal.
“Living My Life” expresses isolation and his disillusion with “chasing a fading frontier,” but is also a reaffirmation of vitality of solitary life “off the grid.” With poignant imagery Cox describes “amber waves of grain…turning grey again / the darkened stage and the infinite waves / distance can change fate, I'm out of range again.”
The reflective poetry of Fading Frontier’s second single, “Breaker” is another of the album’s numerous lyrical highlights – “And when I die / There will be nothing to say / Except I tried / Not to waste another day / Trying to stem the tide.”
While Fading Frontier as a whole lacks the intangible inspiration that constitutes a masterpiece, it’s full of gems and affords little opportunity to find fault. Fading Frontier’s ethereal sophistication will satisfy old fans while its pop-oriented direction makes it more accessible than its earlier work and may help to bring Deerhunter to a mainstream audience.
Fading Frontier proves that, seven albums into its career, Deerhunter remains on top of its game and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Luke Heuskin is an arts staff writer. Arts desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.