Top 25 LPs of 2012
Oh Christ, how do I start this without descending into a hyperbolic self-parody… have I already done it? In for a penny? It’s hard for me to talk about Deerhunter without babbling and making weird arm movements. I’m far too attached to them, to the point that I often actively avoid listening to them because I’m scared of the inexplicable possibility of growing to hate them (a thought that may make sense only to me, I apologise). Maybe one of the reasons why this band is so great is because it’s guided by two opposites. Tall, loud eccentric Bradford Cox writes slightly twisted and warped songs, with cryptic ideas and lyrics, while still being absorbing and beautiful. His best friend, however, is the short, quiet and good-natured Lockett Pundt, who writes (equally brilliant) far warmer and more melodic songs, with, somewhat less enigmatic lyrics. While his first solo outing as Lotus Plaza was promising and rewarding, it felt both a little over-saturated and the songwriting didn’t rank with his best. Then, out of nowhere, this happened.
Recorded entirely by Pundt (and with a live band in mind), ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ isn’t just a record that dragged its maker out of his bandmate’s shadow, it’s one of the most wonderful indie-rock records for years. It’s also one of the most perfect mergers of whirling shoegaze and accessible pop. It opens (after a brief celestial synth intro) with ‘Strangers’, a lush hymn to finding friendship in unlikely places, which chugs slowly to a stop as if the tape machine is running out of battery; the yowling guitar flexes on ‘White Galactic One’ touch back to his noisier roots, but there’s a euphoric crunch in them that wasn’t there before, while the chiming ‘Eveningness’ has one of the year’s most memorable riffs. The hope and optimism shines through this album like heat, especially on songs like the quieter and more intimate ‘Dusty Rhodes’ (written for his fiancée who he married a few months after this record came out) and in the blunt affection rife within ‘Remember Our Days’. Its only moment of real heartbreak comes at the tail end: ‘Black Buzz’ was written for his friend who was struggling with drug addiction; the change in tone when this song comes on is as clear and disarming as a light-bulb blowing. Deerhunter are returning to the studio next year, and, after a record like this, you’ll forgive me for getting my hopes up.
For fans of… My Bloody Valentine, Deerhunter, Tame Impala, Galaxie 500
Click here to hear Strangers.
–Joe Anthony Hill