Indie rock band Deerhunter returns this month with their seventh studio album, Fading Frontier, on October 16 via 4AD. The album arrives in the wake of frontman Bradford Cox’s recovery from a serious car accident in December 2014, an event which left him in “incredible pain” and “very depressed.” Cox’s experience throughout the ordeal is clear and present on Fading Frontier, which carries a certain warmth in its dark sound. It evokes a sense of resignation and finality, embracing itself without hesitation.
Fading Frontier opens with the resonant dissonance of “All the Same,” which introduces some recurring elements of the record such as snaky rattles and upbeat chords in addition to the band’s familiar psychedelic style. Cox’s fixation with forlorn lyrics is evident on “Living My Life” and “Take Care,” the second and fifth tracks on the album. They are two of the most melancholy. The former places a heavy emphasis on loneliness and isolation juxtaposed with the song’s comforting ambient atmosphere while “Take Care” is an imperative elegy for the broken. The two tracks are similar in that they possess relatively slow tempos and explosive endings which herald brightness and hope. They are also in line with the theme of the album, which Cox has likened to “the first day of spring.”
The first single, “Snakeskin,” seems to be the outlier on the album and a little reminiscent of Monomania (2013). The song’s grungy distortion, doubled-up lyrics, and rhythmic strumming set it apart from an otherwise clean record, making it effective as a segue into Fading Frontier from Deerhunter’s past work. On the other hand, “Breaker,” followed the promotional procession and is very representative of the rest of the album as a whole. The single is the most upfront in relation to the band’s new sound, blending shimmering guitars, somber narrative, and synth-y upswing accompanied by a rumbling bass line.
“Ad Astra” stands out as being the only song on the album solely written and sung by guitarist Lockett Pundt. The track is reflective of its title, (“to the stars” in Latin). Featuring space-age radio sounds, heavy reverb, and a constant, hypnotic drum loop, “Ad Astra” embodies the ‘frontier’ that the listener has been heading towards.
One striking aspect of Fading Frontier’s release is Bradford Cox’s influence map, posted on the band’s official website. The map’s haphazard sprawl depicts everything that contributed to the writing of the album, from classic artists like R.E.M. and Tom Petty to films by Robert Bresson and even Cox’s dog Faulkner (who has his own page featuring several gifs of squirrels). This kind of cross-medium transparency perfectly supplements the directness of Fading Frontier, adding an extra layer behind its development while transporting the listener into the band’s collective head. The result is Deerhunter’s most visual and powerful album to date. Let’s hope they carrion.
Article by Nicholas Troughton