Gloomy lyrics with cheery tunes

Rarely has an album heralding the end of times sounded so upbeat and melodic, but with their eighth album, American indie rock stalwarts Deerhunter have created just that.

The general disconnect brought about by technology and modern anxieties arising from social and political issues are tackled by this 18-year-old Atlanta quintet through a layered mix of warm, dulcet rock and spacey, sci-fi sounds.

The songs in Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? are concise and the album clocks in at only slightly more than 36 minutes. Yet it lingers like the beauty of dusk, when light slowly gives way to darkness.

In album opener Death In Midsummer, singer and songwriter Bradford Cox’s familiar voice sings a lilting melody over a harpsichord intro as he croons about “poisoned hills” and workers who “worked their lives away” only to fade away, his voice getting increasingly strained as the song progresses.

Element, described by Cox as an “elegy for ecology”, has an offbeat bassline and rhythm to inspire awkward dancing as he muses about “orange clouds” that “fade up for a toxic view” and the fury of “fire, wind, water”.

The band’s past avant-garde tendencies seep through in the instrumental Greenpoint Gothic and its gamelan-like sounds, making it a tune that is childlike and eerie at the same time, as well as in the robotic-voiced, sci-fi interlude in the middle of the album, Detournement (“we can contact the higher spirits from our electronic brains”).

INDIE ROCK/ PSYCHEDELIC ROCK

WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED?

Deerhunter

4AD

4 stars

What Happens To People? is marked by shifting time signatures and cascading notes as Cox’s fragile voice tackles despair (“They quit holding on/What happens to people?/Their dreams turn to dark”).

No One’s Sleeping, written about the 2015 murder of British politician Jo Cox by a mentally ill man who held neo-Nazi views, should be gloomy and depressing. Instead, there is an almost euphoric quality to the song and its kaleidoscopic outro. “There’s much duress/Violence has taken hold,” Cox sings in the first verse.

He offers an escape later on in the same song, leading the listener “to golden pond/There is peace/The great beyond”.

It is a concept he explores again in Tarnung, named after the German word for “camouflage”. Cox and Welsh singer Cate Le Bon, who is also one of the album’s producers, blend their voices together, giving the song an ethereal, choir-like feel while they sing of “avenues with rain / The place to fade away / Phase into gold light”.

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