Deerhunter – ‘Monomania’
I think it’s safe to say that our quaint town has gotten plenty of love in the world of alternative music. In 2005, David Dondero crooned about the Brownsville Revival and “a safer haven out near Alcaniz and Baylen.” On their 2004 album, “Almost Killed Me,” The Hold Steady revealed Pensacola’s love of partying with “poppers, pills, and Pepsi.” We all know Wilco ascribed our town as a good place to hide from the snow and Manchester Orchestra spent time in our bars and dirty malls. The list of honorable mentions has been expanded once again. Now, Atlanta’s Deerhunter have taken Pensacola under its wing in the form of a freewheeling four-minute jaunt, aptly titled “Pensacola,” tucked right in the middle of new long player “Monomania.” I say “freewheeling” because being free from rules and restraint is a theme spanning the majority of this album, and seemingly much of singer/guitarist/songwriter/cross-dresser Bradford Cox’s existence. Album openers “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II” pile on enough fuzz and reverb to make the last five years of the ‘60s stand up and applaud, and let us know to shift our expectations for the rest of the album, not because we will be disappointed, but because we should know by now not to place expectations on Deerhunter. Moods on the album bounce around from the upbeat “Dream Captain,” to the minimalistic “T.H.M.,” from the relaxed slow-burner “Nitebike” to the garage glammed title track. Ultimately, Deerhunter have set aside any sense of polish, most of their desire for catchy hooks, and the fear of needing to sound catchy, in order to produce something raw, emotional, dirty, and honest. Frankly, I think we should hope for this from more of the musicians pumping music out today. “Monomania” is out May 7 via 4AD.
Phoenix – ‘Bankrupt!’
“Forever is for everyone else.” These words from the title track of Phoenix’s new full-length album “Bankrupt!” caught my attention on my very first listen for several reasons. It was probably the melancholy attitude over the shimmering musical backdrop that really hooked me. Also, I completely disagree with the future not being for Phoenix. This is a band that has consistently put out music with the feel of Europe’s energy along with tinges of anthem rock persona, and as such, have been rewarded by exploding to the level of festival headliners in the span of a relatively short career. It’s been four years since the band released the widely acclaimed “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” and, fortunately for us, “Bankrupt!” seems to pick up right where the former album left off, but with plenty of unforeseen direction. The album’s first single, “Entertainment,” is archetypal Phoenix, with fast-paced hooks, a climactic and captivating chorus, and introspective lyrics over a seemingly carefree composition, but where previous songs searched for pop, there has been thrown a bit of confusion. When you listen to this song, try singing along with the “Ohhhhh” on the bridge. Good luck. It’s really Phoenix’s use of bizarre effects and gloss that have kept me relentlessly intrigued. There’s just… so much shimmer, man. So much shimmer! Personally, the absolute stand out track is “S.O.S. In Bel Air,” and not just because I immediately imagined Will Smith dancing to it—although that legitimately happened—but the track’s anxiety and sense of urgency make me reminisce over some of my favorite ‘80s artists, namely The Eurythmics and INXS. This spirit of homage to a decade past hovers over the whole 40 minutes of music, and helps the listener to understand the world, and the place in said world, where Phoenix are coming from. “Bankrupt!” is out now via V2 and Glassnote Records.