Top 10 Albums of the Year: #1

Deerhunter - Cryptograms (Kranky)
Whatever your stance on Deerhunter was over the course of this year, there's no denying they were pretty tough to avoid hearing about (whether it was for the right or wrong reasons). And that got annoying. Hype and such aside, the fact of the matter is I don't think I got as genuinely excited for any release or band as much as this band and this release all year. I've been blabbing about it since it leaked about this time last year, and my blabbing was rejuvenated when the Fluorescent Grey EP came out in the spring and I saw them live in Kansas City (they're a really great live band. luckily when I saw them they pulled no punches and just played a rock-solid set). Cryptograms blends perfect amounts of moodiness and noise and melody and shoegaze nostalgia and frontman Bradford Cox's commanding personality and rockin-ness and beauty and ambiance and just everything. And that's why I'm calling it my favorite record of the year.
"Lake Somerset" is an animal snarl of a track, coming forward with crescendos and pulling back with tense builds that are executed in expert fashion. Beatless numbers like "White Ink," "Red Ink" and "Providence" are not just mere fillers. They're fully realized components of the album as a whole, and stand up next to the output of many of Deerhunter's Kranky labelmates. The looping guitar echo, watery washes and worn drones on these tracks help bridge the more agressive tracks on the first half of the album and makes it so the weight of those songs doesn't become overwhelming. On the latter half of the record there is a bit less of ambient noodling (with the exception of the very nice "Tape Hiss Orchid") and a bit more direct pop / rock oriented songwriting. "Spring Hall Convert" thrills with it's synced near-relentless rhythm guitar and drum pounding and just sort of lifts off the ground with a plucked guitar and Cox's ethereal vocal chants. A lonesome bass opens "Hazel St.," but as the rest of the band joins in, the propulsive song spirals upward into one of the most glorious pieces on the album.
After spending a year with this album I'm still not tired of it. It pulls me in at all the right times and lets me float free in equal turn. The vocals are compelling when they come into focus and extremely effective when layered, looped, and coated with effects, making it another instrument (this was very apparently the case when seeing the band live). Knowing that this album was recorded as two separate halves over the course of a few years and under a number of intense personal struggles, I wonder whether being able to write and create new music in a more stable environment will produce even more focused work or result in a band too comfortable in it's sound. Who knows. With an individual like Cox, whose material seems so focused on youthful desperation and urgency, hopefully he will help guide Deerhunters efforts with the same sort of hunger and abandon that clearly fueled the recording of Cryptograms.

1 comment:

Udai said...

Oh hell yes. Good call. I didn't make a list this year but my top 2 could have been the same as yours.