Opening with the comparatively quiet "Cover Me (Slowly)," Deerhunter's Microcastle quickly evolves into something less abstract and inherently more familiar than the band's previous offerings. While 2007's breakthrough Cryptograms was applauded for its abrasive intangibles, Microcastle sounds harnessed and reflective of, rather than in conflict with, the band's inspirations. But rather than just sounding like Sonic Youth or the Pixies, Deerhunter transcend a culture dying for immediate nostalgia and creates an album suggestive of rock's illusive "next wave."
It's odd to think of obscurity as an advantage, but whereas bands were once given the ability to hone their sound over a matter of years, today's modern climate demands immediate evaluation and categorization, allowing for little time to develop. Microcastle's second track, "Agoraphobia," reflects a sound characteristic of what was once termed "slacker rock" and a casual lyrical style reminiscent of that of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. But while Deerhunter avoid the noisiness often associated with the art-rock trailblazers, uncharacteristically leaning toward sounding like a "rock band," they base the core sound on something that took years to develop. Likewise, "Little Kids" sounds as though the band inherited a sound the Pixies lost somewhere between internal conflict and addiction. In attempting to expand upon a variety of influences that took years to cultivate, in a very short time the question that arises isn't "what's next?"—it's "is next possible?"
The curiously self-debasing lyrics of the album's closing track, "Twilight at Carbon Lake," evolve into Microcastle's increasingly dramatic and intricate conclusion. What becomes the loudest song on the album is also the most telling of what might become of the brilliance that the band generously exudes. With guitars twisting and sounds colliding, the album peaks before fading out into silence—and if that looming "next wave" of rock 'n' roll is ever to materialize, part of its success will lie in bands such as Deerhunter not similarly fading away into silence.
[This article was first published by City Pages.]