More best of the 00’s:
‘Microcastle’ seems to turn normality and reality on its head, both musically and lyrically. Case in point: the only lyric of the blissful, dreamlike ‘Cavalry Scars’ is “Crucified on a cross in front of all of my closest friends” and yet somehow it makes the prospect seem as peaceful as dying in your sleep after a family meal and a glass of wine. Most of the words sound like the inner-workings of someone who is gradually realising that they’re going mad; in fact it plays like the process from insanity through delirium, then weariness and ending with either recovery or death. The opener ‘Agoraphobia’ seems to take solace in sensory deprivation: “I lose my voice I know, but I’ve nothing left to say.” Bradford Cox’s unfocused, sleepy vocals further contribute to ‘Microcastle’s worrying mental state. The music itself is one of the most original sounds for a long time; equally informed by jangly guitar pop as it is by the sweeping noisy freak-outs of Sonic Youth, but it’s not trying to copy anyone. Here, any prettiness has far darker edges. The sublime ‘Little Kids’ – a poignant contemplation on the fear of getting old, told through a group of children burning a man alive in his own home – engulfs you in a gleaming wall of sound, causing its troubled subject matter to take you by surprise. The middle of the album houses a three-part trippy suite (the gentle build-up of ‘Cavalry Scars’, the weightless high of ‘Green Jacket’ and the warped, grinding come-down ‘Activa’), which sounds so close to a genuine drug experience that rehab clinics could use it to wean junkies. Along with the troubled confessionals and acid-tinged zonk-outs, Deerhunter can also write brilliant straight-up rock songs – the hypnotic ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ even has a singable chorus (surely not!).
Easily one of the best records of the decade, ‘Microcastle’ makes having a slender grip on reality seem like a strength. It’s not a happy record but it still inhabits a place where you’d love to escape to. Brilliant.
Listen to this: alone, loud.
Key Track: Little Kids