Deerhunter should be applauded for refusing to rest on its laurels by actively seeking to make a record with purpose and scope. The goals and the stakes are real for them, and in Fading Frontiers, the effort is blindingly evident.
It's pretty amazing the band has followed Cox's lead with little difficulty. Or at least Fading Frontier makes it appear that way. Tight when they need to be but loose enough to explore the cosmos, Deerhunter sounds reinvigorated by the new attitude.
Fading Frontier ... certainly belongs in any discussion of their best. It’s a portrait of the young men as adult artists; it’s the closest equivalent to a major-label debut for an era when a band might as well stay independent.
Instead of trying to make an experimental oddity for music nerds, he made an indie pop album for music fans. He went for our hearts rather than our heads.
While Deerhunter's created a number of indelible songs over their career, Fading Frontier may have their first that could conceivably blend into real-deal classic rock radio.
At nine songs and just over 36 minutes, Fading Frontier is a filler-free opus of experimental rock splendor that never lags and always intrigues. It’s pretty sharp for a noise or garage rock album with sleek bass lines and vibrant electronic add-ons.
‘Fading Frontier’ represents a conscious retreat from the scuzzy claustrophobia of ‘Monomania’ and a surge towards considered, contented songcraft.
Fading Frontier ... is the sort of record that only Deerhunter could make, a contradictory and even on paper somewhat illogical set of songs that nonetheless constitutes the most graceful set of music of the band’s career.
There are so many straightforwardly commercial-sounding songs here that Fading Frontier could conceivably be an album that turns Deerhunter from cult concern into mainstream success.
Ten years into that prolific career, the Atlanta quartet has produced its most accessible, consistent and possibly best work yet with sixth full-length Fading Frontier.
The growth that is present in the album is one of ideology as opposed to sound. Deerhunter are looking at the world with a refined philosophical perspective. There’s a subtle undercurrent of optimism that directs the music.
Cox’s naked sensitivity and inability to filter himself have been constants through the band’s career; on Fading Frontier, they ensure Deerhunter’s most accessible songs yet are also their most affecting.
In terms of brightness and accessibility, the album feels like an extension of their breakout record, 2008's Microcastle. Yet it's clear the band has matured in the intervening years - and they're better for it.
It all means that Fading Frontier is probably Deerhunter’s fourth best album. It’s still an excellent record, but it’s just ever so slightly underwhelming.
Bradford Cox has deeply embedded his maturing experience into Fading Frontier – the experience of a new-found settled lifestyle.
On Fading Frontier, Deerhunter focus on their ability as a band to hypnotize and confound, which make the explosive moments here stand out that much more.
Deerhunter always find a lot to exploit in the intersection of Cox’s gloomy visions and the band’s gravity-defying pop vistas, and for the most part Fading Frontier is a rewarding immersion in diverse layers of melody and meaning. But there’s still a nagging spottiness that keeps it from reaching its full potential.
'Fading Frontier' is by no means a poor album, and truth be told really doesn't possess a bad number on it. The real issue is that in a genre filled with imitators, many whom Deerhunter no doubt inspired, we need a bit more bang for our buck.
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