Halcyon Digest is the latest record from the always prolific Branford Cox & Co. Although it could be perhaps Deerhunter’s most accessible record, it’s filled with bubbly, catchy indie pop tracks. But, underneath the surface, some rather thoughtful and maudlin themes resonate throughout.
Halcyon means tranquil or at peace—fitting for a record that sounds something like shoe gaze and dream pop. Cox has been quoted saying this album is about memories and how the brain edits, simplifies, and highlights different parts of life to remember. Both music and lyrics combine to feel almost like a record written in stream of consciousness.
The album’s ambient opener “Earthquake” sounds like something you’d expect from Deerhunter, but the next two tracks “Don’t Cry” and “Revival” are something different entirely. Catchy, bouncy and fun, these are front-runners for best singles of the year. Yet, even though the songs sound happy Cox sings lyrics like “Darkness, always it doesn’t make much sense/Darkened hallways away from me, darling”.
“Sailing” is just Cox and a weepy guitar, followed by “Memory Boy”, perhaps the most exciting and fun track on the album. Yet again, every song has lyrics filled with nostalgia, lost memories, and sadness. The album reminds me of something you could listen to during the summer, while you’re driving by yourself. It’s warm and inviting, but it seems best digested when the listener is alone.
Perhaps “He Would Have Laughed” is the key to understanding Halcyon Digest. This song is a tribute to the recently deceased Jay Reatard. It is fitting that an album about memories and consciousness ends by paying recognition to a musician who died before he could fully mature—a musician who had some great ideas, but left before he could find an audience or fully develop. Unfortunately, with all the music being released, downloaded, and reviewed in the twenty-first century, an artist who died young like Reatard might have a hard time pinning down a legacy. Regardless, Cox remembers his friend and the music he made. He sings about it, even if he doesn’t have the events remembered exactly how they happened.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-½
Key Tracks: “Earthquake”, “Memory Boy”, “He Woudl Have Laughed”
Recommended if you like: No Age, Atlas Sound, and Animal Collective.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!