Deerhunter — Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? ANALYSIS & REVIEW
This sure got me excited a few minutes in. While the album slowly lost some momentum by becoming a bit of a timbre-heavy wash with less specific selling points overtime, it’s still an enjoyable and worthwhile piece of music all the way through. There are specific ups and downs, with the album going from some complete mastery of lightning-in-a-bottle ideas to merely riding slow waves of mellow guitar, brass and percussion that were simply atmospheric. The bottom line is that while Deerhunter didn’t fully exploit and showcase their biggest musical strengths from beginning to end, everything that ended up being on the final product was there with purpose, thought, and clear intention.
The first two songs were outstanding. “Death in Midsummer” opens the album with a two-note harpsichord motive using a 3+3+2 rhythm in 4/4, and travels along on the top of the neat progression I, IV, bVII, bIII, I. A, D, G, C, A. It’s a mini descending sequence, almost teasing like it’s going to do a whole circle of 5th pass, when it lands abruptly and beautifully back on tonic. It’s nothing too-farfetched — it’s just simple yet unique enough to be super interesting and fun. The harmonic progression and the catchy two-note motive that accompanies it is enough to call this a good song, and on top of that it has a peaceful thin texture, appropriate guitar build, and a well-traveling vocal melody that fully emphasizes the harmony while using pleasant rises and falls.
The next song “No One’s Sleeping” doesn’t have as riveting of a repetitive figure at the start, but organically grows into a whole new wonderful setting with electric guitar replacing acoustic and using nice brass swells into the truly important arrival point in the song, when a new, more prominent, anthemic melody takes over atop the same harmonies from the beginning. The second half of this song is quite glorious for that. The opening two songs on this album were examples of great instrumental melodic writing, great thematic organization, strong rhythmic vitality, good textural build, and fun harmonic progressions. Eight more songs like this, and we’d potentially be looking at an incredible album.
It would’ve taken something really special for this band to continue this momentum, and unfortunately, they couldn’t quite do it. However, that’s not to say the rest of album was at all poor or too lacking in quality. It was merely a big shift in focus from the growth of small, isolated ideas to discovering an overall pleasant atmosphere through use of varying acoustics. The rest of the work wasn’t as overly convincing and masterful in this new focus, but it’s still some pretty music.
Finding pleasant instrumental combinations while also using traditional rock band pieces was a real highlight here. Other songwriting aspects suffered a bit when giving way to putting the sonic space first, and slow tempos weren’t quite as well decorated with any truly gorgeous singular sonorities. The song “Element” sticks out as being the low point on the album, as it was one of the few that didn’t give lots of space to sonic exploration and instead highlighted a rather bland, sing-songy vocal line that had little harmonic tendencies or important arrival points.
If there’s one thing the rest of the album lacked, it was really just a sense of urgency, or a sense that the music was really dying to be heard. It might be a case of the band working their butts off to sculpt one or two “hits”, then realizing they don’t want to spend as much time and energy fleshing out the rest of the work. They seemed to revert to what came naturally, which was still generally fine. The intelligent instrumental usages were still very much present over the course of the work, and in fact, the overall timbre really became the most enjoyable layer through and through. I’m rather surprised to say that after what the first two songs succeeded in, but it’s a positive that I shouldn’t really complain about. It gave an enjoyable tone, a rather soothing listen, and two awesome songs. Not a bad start to the year.