I’ve been waiting all summer for Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest. I marked September 28th, its release date, on my calendar with a big sparkly star, and I waited. Waiting is difficult; waiting in this day and age, is near impossible. Although I had heard bits of Halcyon Digest prior to its release, I couldn’t wait to listen to it in its entirety without any interruptions. Finally, that day came last week.
Listening to Deerhunter’s fourth full-length album is like looking at cloudless sky: perfect, humbling, and something you want to shove in your pocket and keep for yourself. Before you even get halfway through Halcyon Digest, you know it’s going to be a favorite for a long time, if not forever. The album opens with “Earthquake” a song of such utter weightlessness, as if a dream, one can’t help but feel lost in the “grey fog” and “sea” of which Bradford Cox sings.
“Don’t Cry” and “ Revival” are a bit lighter in sound, but without diminishing the intensity and darkness of the lyrics. “Sailing” digs deep once again, a comment on self-analysis, perhaps: “I didn’t mind, no/Nowhere to be/Nothing to see- except me/Only fear/Can make you feel lonely out there/You learn to accept/Whatever you can get.”
Along with ambient sounds that are pieced together so methodically, and flawlessly transition between pop and moodier songs (“Desire Lines” into “Basement Scene” showcases this perfectly), it’s the lyrics that really grab you and lock themselves into the landscape of your day. “Helicopter” is a lyrical vision – heavy in emotion and God references, it’s like stepping on unstable ground, but without the fear of falling, because if you believe, you never fall: “And I pray for us/Would you pray for us/Nobody loves you the best/We know he loves you the best… No one cares for me/I keep no company/I have minimal needs/And now they are through with me.” It’s a painfully beautiful song about the end of one’s life, the letting go of what consumes us in our lives, and the possibilities of what will come for us in our final moments.
The album closes with “He Would Have Laughed,” a seven and a half minute long song and dedication to the recently deceased Jay Reatard. It’s a phenomenal way to end this already spectacular album, and it’s sadly eloquent both musically and lyrically: “In sweetness comes suffering/I won’t rest till I can’t breathe/I can’t breath with you looking at me.” The song sounds as if it’s been cut short, as it abruptly ceases like the life of Reatard. However, the silence that follows that final note is one of promise that those who have been part of our lives are still there if you listen really closely… a lasting impression, if you will.
Halcyon Digest is practically a religious experience; a composition of ghosts, God, revivals, prayer and the stuff in us that makes all the rest possible. Some people have church on Sunday mornings, and some of us have music… then there are those of us who have Deerhunter.