Bradford Cox is a man. A very strange man, known for crossdressing, ramblings during gigs, and chaotic, uncontrollably passionate performances, but still, a normal man nonetheless. Ok maybe not normal. Emanating from a solid area known for diverse, legendary acts like R.E.M. and Neutral Milk Hotel, Bradford Cox and Deerhunter have emerged not only as one of the most riveting indie bands of the new millennium, but also one of the best. Album after album has been pitch perfect, and today we discuss their top ten best songs. Enjoy, and get ready to be weird.
10. Back to the Middle, Monomania
For me at least, “Monomania” was essentially my least favorite album the band ever did, while also containing a few bright gems. “Back to the Middle,” the ninth song on the album and the tenth song on the “Top Ten Deerhunter Songs,” has all the best aspect of a Deerhunter track. It brims with bright yet trashy vocals, the music behind Cox akin to an out of tune Strokes in a basement even more grimy. It’s a quick song, hardly getting past the two minute mark, but the track in itself is a gleeful reminder that the band can produce solid garage rock with flair.
9. Revival, Halcyon Digest
This track has always reminded me of a circular camera shot looking up at a tunnel of stairs during a dimly light house party. Once again the grungy yet ambient and psychedelic aspects of the band permeate through the speakers, and you’re left with a weird but thoughtfully deliberate act at your entrance to the brain. Even among their best albums, this song ranks as a great one. It manages to be chill and immediate all at once, and really showcases the understanding that Cox, but also the rest of the band has when it comes to creating hooks.
8. Ad Astra, Fading Frontier
The distant churn of the foghorn is what calls this moody, darkly lit ship to shore. It’s peaceful, slow, while brooding with untold majestic elements. Cox’s voice creeps over like a misty rain hovering over. Easily the best song on their excellent seventh album, the first time I heard the track I could tell it would gladly envelop me in ways past efforts by the band have been able to do. It’s a smooth transition at the four minute mark that really sends the band into a headspin of hypnotizing visuals.
7. Never Stops, Microcastle
There’s something so sleazy and svelte about this track from what’s arguably their breakout album. The drums are potent and thumping, while the wayward guitar wails through a tunnel. Bradford’s lyrics and vocal style obviously help the song also, and the back and forth with fast tempos and slower ones also help to let everyone have a fun, but then to wean into a cooler, more chill atmosphere. The whole album is dream like, but this is far above the others.
6. Fountain Stairs, Halcyon Digest
As soon as I got this record I knew they had delivered another solid collection of music. This song especially stood out. Placed late early in the record, it gives you a quick pick up on the way to the finale. It's easy to move too also, which helps with the overall reaction to the music. Many times the vocals sound distorted somewhat. Never in a bad or intrusive way, but it adds to what I like to think could be described as “floaty.” It has enough fun for a wild day at the beach, but also enough chill to get you through.
5. The Missing, Monomania
I still don't know what exactly this song is about, but I love the change in vocals, especially when done live. Cox is great, but the guitar player really nails it here.Lockett Pundt is his name, and for this brief moment his vocals bring you to a more pure place. The song has elements of darkness, but overall I feel like it has a more happy vibe, which isn’t at all how they approach the lyrics. It could very well end up being a cheerful sound but dark track lyric. The guitars here are also excellent and vibrant. It’ this main focus that takes the song to an amazing place. The pace is consistent, concentrated and radiating.
4. Nothing Ever Happened, Microcastle
Man this opening is one of the best the band ever came up with. With the quick reverb and a drum signal, we’re off into a whirlwind of musicality. The drums are at a solid place, and the twinkling of the guitar and bass all help to build this huge sound. It reminds of something Mod’s would dance to back in the day, but way better than any mod band ever. The lyrics are simple, but that's not a bad thing. It’s easy to sing along, and the chorus is joyful and full of abandon. Ive the song is taken to another place entirely. Usually serving as a jam out session, the song is way more high energy as it goes, and leaves you wanting more.
3. Desire Lines, Halcyon Digest
The first time I ever saw them, this was the opener. I loved that show so much, even after being told by multiple people it was the worst time they saw them. I didn’t care though, The powerful guitars at the start and the billowy atmosphere surrounding the vocals. I love the chanting in the background too, mildly competing with Bradford Cox and his own unique vocal style. Obviously, being number three on the “Deerhunter Top Ten” is expected to be great, but this song still captivates me in a way most of their other songs simply can’t. It’s also quite lumbering though, and at nearly seven minute long track, it hold up well against shorter songs, It’s just really good.
2. Twilight at Carbon Lake, Microcastle
My ideas for the vibe of this song fuelled my theory about the album. My theory depicts a boy swimming to the bottom of the ocean, and eventually being eaten by a giant octopus. That’s what the album reminded me . It’s dark, sinister, and things don’t go your way. It also helps the imagery because of the usage of “Lake” in the title. It’s song for looking to the stars at night, imagining what lies beyond. Perhaps some other dimensions version of Deerhunter is laying this song right now, for all the evil world to come out and sing to. It’s meandering and shimmering, with images of celestial bodies all above your head, and it explodes in a bright light at the conclusion.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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