Hardly any band can boomerang back to the same success it had on two earlier fantastic back-to-back albums after a mediocre effort, but indie rock darlings Deerhunter figures out what works and stick with it on its latest LP, “Fading Frontier.” After 2013’s “Monomania,” which proved highly divisive among fans of the Atlanta natives, their latest album is a smoothly content vision of what subsequent releases tried to experiment with, and the 9-track album goes by lazily, both musically and aesthetically.
Although the band’s lyricism has shaped itself into something more easily digestible while maintaining the quasi-ambient experimentation present on “Halcyon Digest” and “Weird Era Cont.,” that is not to assume it is lackadaisical. Most of the sounds on “Fading Frontier” are poppy and distant from what the band has done in the past. It doesn’t serve as a gateway to accessibility but more so an additive for the album’s straightforward approach. The album is the band’s shortest at 36 minutes, but the length also doesn’t try to cater to first-time listeners. This is an especially elementary-sounding LP all-around, and all these things simply do not serve as a gateway to newcomers in order to get them to enjoy the album. The reasoning for the album’s convenience primarily serves as a complement to the c’est la vie condition dominating the album.
Deerhunter really seems to be drifting throughout the entirety of “Fading Frontier,” penning songs with such a casual attitude toward life that it can’t help but be contagious. However, it’s this devotion to making each song hark on how life carries on that makes each track feel a little repetitious. It’s especially disheartening to relive the same theme over and over again in such a short period of time, which helps since “Fading Frontier” does not try and extend the length of the album to make it a boring slog. It’s just the right length for its ideas to spread out before you slowly leave once you’ve accepted them all.
Musically, the motif of life staying the same and making the best of everything you have really does work here. The ideas aren’t as present musically as they are lyrically, and there are a couple of tracks that unfortunately end up feeling like retreads of the same ideas without any excitement sonically. The album’s lead single, “Breaker,” is almost as peppy as it gets, with a jangly riff in the chorus that feels heavily like an amalgamation of several modern indie artists. There are slowly tracks throughout the album, and Deerhunter maintains an admirable balance between the urgent-sounding tunes and the slower, more leisurely ones. The longer and passive songs end up retaining some of what made Deerhunter’s earlier work so arresting – that appreciation and obvious perceptivity of disparate genres. Mix these in with the hurriedly bright songs on the album and there is enough diversity to please most fans of indie music.
This collection of tracks ends up having the same effect on the listener, which is to say they are a solid set of songs with some remnants of previous Deerhunter works. This perhaps speaks for the band better than “Fading Frontier” does. The message portrayed in the album’s lyricism gets a little long in the tooth by the end, but it is refreshing to see the band taking things at face value and clearly pondering where to go next. Deerhunter has indeed grown up at this point, and there is probably little hope that they return to the more erratic sounds from their earlier years. However, fans can rest easy knowing the band is content with their lives, if this LP is anything to go by, and that it are just taking time out to notice the quirks with some uncomplicated glimpses of true enjoyment.