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Album Review: Fading Frontier – Deerhunter

Last December, Deerhunter’s lead member, Bradford Cox, got hit by a car while crossing the street. The incident was the beginning of a paradigm shift for the songwriter that led him to seriously consider the idea of settling down. He has since acquired a dog, and bought a house in which he lives as a recluse. “[Getting hit by the car] erased all illusions for me,” he recently told Pitchfork, “I just want safety. I would like to avoid physical pain and illness and mind my own business and have peace and quiet.”

Consequently, Fading Frontier—Deerhunter’s seventh album—is by far the band’s most serene and interpersonal effort. Contrasting in all possible ways with the crisp, claustrophobic vibe of their previous LP, the hateful Monomania, this record’s clean and dreamy soundscape boasts infinite space for the instruments to breathe; a delight that lets the mind wander freely within over and over.

Never before have Cox’s lyrics been this personal. His voice, which was once drowned out by guitar reverb in the middle of the mix, has been pushed to the forefront this time around; ultimately enabling the listeners to fully experience the singer’s undervalued poetry and newfound open-heartedness. “Jack-knifed / On the side-street crossing / I'm still alive / And that's something,” he squarely sings near the end of “Breaker,” referencing a distinct events in his own life in a way he would have shied away from only two years ago.

The record also represents the culmination of Deerhunter’s slow but steady progression from indie towards pop. Cox’s natural talent for crafting sumptuous melodies has often been overshadowed by the groups tangent to focus on ambiance and textures, but on Fading Frontier, overlooking his gift has simply become impossible. Most of the songs feature simpler-than-usual structures, featuring strong and distinct choruses, while the omnipresence of synthesizers and the general softness of the ensemble make for an important mainstream appeal. The album even has two legitimate single-ready tracks— “Snakeskin,” and “Living my Life,”—something that could not be said of any of their previous material.

Ultimately, Fading Frontier is the perfect soundtrack for those early fall mornings, where being awake becomes a relative notion, and sipping coffee is enough to keep one busy until well past noon. If Cox can make songs about settling down this thrilling, then Deerhunter’s already impressive run is still far from over.

Essential tracks

“Take Care,” “Living my Life,” and “Snakeskin”

Sounds like

Spoon’s They Want my Soul

Most Memorable Lyric

"You should take your handicaps / Channel them and feed them back / 'Till they become your strength / All around, it's all the same"

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