Albums Of The Week

Hope blooms from gloom

Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox comes back from a car accident to make the band's most accessible album

Going through personal tragedies has always been known to spur significant works from artists.

While emotional trauma has given rise to many songs, for Bradford Cox, frontman of Atlanta indie rock linchpins Deerhunter, the calamity was also physical.

In December last year, the 33-year-old was hit by a car. He documented his subsequent hospital stay on social media, describing how he was in "incredible pain" and was unable to move.

In recent interviews, Cox, who made his acting debut in the 2013 Oscar winning drama Dallas Buyers Club, has said that the accident and the subsequent recovery period changed his perspective and became a turning point in his life.

  • INDIE ROCK/ART ROCK

    FADING FRONTIER

    Deerhunter

    4AD/Hostess Asia

    ****

Fading Frontier, the band's seventh album, is not the first to be preceded by a tragedy. Their 2005 debut album, Turn It Up Faggot, was infamously influenced by the death of founding bassist Justin Bosworth.

Today, Cox's post-accident and newfound tranquillity have resulted in the band's most forthright and, quite possibly, most accessible album yet.

Together with co-founder and drummer Moses Archuleta, high-school friend and guitarist Lockett Pundt and bassist Josh McKay, the new album dials down on the experimentation of past acclaimed works such as Halcyon Digest (2010) and Monomania (2013).

In the sleeve, Cox even draws a diagram that lists the albums' influences. Among names such as experimental pioneer Laurie Spiegel and jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, he also lists 1980s pop stalwarts INXS and Tears For Fears.

Driven by a jangly guitar and funky bassline, Snakeskin ("I was feelin' kinda ill, I was feelin' kinda lonely/The time was erased, yes but, I was so homely"), could well be an out-take by the former.

Ad Astra and its shimmery, domineering synth lines end with a sample of the version of American folk classic, I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground by Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

I'm Living My Life is a shiny and upbeat pop gem, the kind that is perfect as a soundtrack for a smartphone advertisement.

In the lyrics, Cox reminisces about a simpler time when things were new and exciting ("Will you tell me when you find out how/To recover the lost years/I've spent all of my time out here/Chasing the fading frontier").

Still, a couple of tracks are dour. Leather And Wood, for example, features some of his most fragile vocals and straightforward lyrics to date.

Cox references his accident, but also narrates how it gave him a new sense of idealism, singing: "I believe we will find/That elusive peace now/I can't believe there is/ No hope".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Hope blooms from gloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe