Deerhunter wants to stay put. To be locked in windowless rooms. To never age. To sleep. To be dead. In a way, it's ironic that the Atlanta band gets tagged as punk, even when it's attached to prefixes like "psych," "ambient," or "art": Punk music agitates for upheaval, but Deerhunter seeks only stasis. "I had a dream no longer to be free," goes "Agoraphobia," and the line summarizes Microcastle: Deerhunter's latest is a complete fantasy, a shimmering depiction of what it's like to wish fervently for calm, but know it's not coming.
The harsh, ambient darkness of 2007's Cryptograms is mostly absent on Microcastle, replaced by blazing gold and orange hues, warmly whirring guitar solos, pepped-up drumming, pop hooks, and gauzy echoes of Motown and krautrock. The bolder sound signals that Deerhunter is now less concerned with the scarring effects of loss, conflict, and the passage of time, and more concerned with the ways to escape those things—even if that escape is fleeting. On "Little Kids," a group of drunken youths symbolically reject aging by lighting an old man on fire. But as the flames rise, so does the sumptuous shoegaze squall and Bradford Cox's soft insistence that those kids will "get older still." Freedom from hurt: Deerhunter realizes it's impossible, but Microcastle shows it's a beautiful idea all the same.