Fading Frontier is an album of narratives, of identifiable and bold ideas presented in a straightforward manner – as straightforward as Deerhunter can be, that is. Not quite as experimental as 2010’s Halcyon Digest, and not quite as sonically cluttered as its fuzz-toned predecessor Monomania, Deerhunter here strike up a careful balance between deliciously crafted indie-pop and the boundary-pushing music which has characterised their discography.
Frontman Bradford Cox called the lyricism of Fading Frontier “writing consciously”, and although the songs retain their classic poetic crypticism, they are far more direct and easy to unravel than previous Deerhunter releases. According to Cox, influences on the album range from the obvious (Tears for Fears, R.E.M, Tom Petty) to the slightly more obscure (“soulless new car smell”, “field mint”), as well as a 2014 car accident which saw Cox hospitalised and in incredible amounts of pain. It’s surprising, then, that such a horrendous experience could produce such an uplifting, pop-oriented record. Even lead single Snakeskin, which opens with the gloomy couplet “I was born already nailed to the cross/I was born with the feeling I was lost”, manages to fuse melancholy lyrics with an up-tempo white funk beat. Meanwhile, the album’s closer Carrion perfectly capitulates the existential undertones of the album, whilst also further blurring the lines between desolate and uplifting, between rotting carrion and a will to “carry on”.
Notions of mortality, of survival and revival, of reincarnation and the weakness of the flesh – all these are approached in a way which is somehow both sturdy and sensitive. Deerhunter have always tended towards introspection, but a lush sonic palette and tight production keeps Fading Frontier firmly from veering into self-indulgence.