Deerhunter keeps evolving, even while staying the same. The Atlanta experimentalists have never been afraid to shed their skin, from the knotty psychedelia of 2007’s Cryptograms, to the grimy garage-punk of 2013’s Monomania, to the pop-rock sheen of 2015’s Fading Frontier.
Borrowing the sonic brightness of its immediate predecessor, the band’s eighth studio album, Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet?, is their most accessible album to date. It’s also their most cynical. With singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon and recent collaborator Ben H. Allen co-producing, Deerhunter sound uncharacteristically melodic and inviting, but the lyrics are as disillusioned as they’ve ever been – as if Bradford Cox and the gang decided to shovel on a spoonful of sugar to help their misanthropic medicine go down.
On lead single “Death in Midsummer,” a harpsichord adds a pop of color to the bleak lyrics. The uptempo “What Happens To People?” is an immediate highlight, with springy pianos falling into a string-laden, psychedelic haze that bleeds from Cox’s somber inner monologue. On the hymn-like “Tarnung,” a woodblock pairs with monastic voices and reedy woodwinds. The danceable “Plains” is built over Moses Archuleta’s immaculate and wistful percussion work.
On the dystopian “Element,” where Cox begins, “The wind was stained / Orange clouds laid out for a toxic view / Of endless time, endless time / Let it wash over your body,” not even the strings can distract from the bleak, cancerous wasteland he describes. The song, which gracefully ebbs and flows as it lyrically marches towards the end times, represents the veiled warning of this record perfectly: a brilliant mix of morbid poetry and some of the brightest sounds they’ve ever experimented with.