Bedroom-pop auteur Bradford Cox has dabbled in the childlike yet menacing psychedelia of Syd Barrett, the sumptuously lonely songcraft of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, the funky drone of Stereolab, the mind-freezing soundscapes of Brian Eno, and the slapdash four-track buzz-pop of Robert Pollard. But he’s never brought all those influences together in one place like he does on the new Halcyon Digest. Before now, Cox has split his time between the propulsive trippiness of his band, Deerhunter, and the dreamier, sweetly shambling AM rock ’n’ roll of Atlas Sound. It became more difficult to tell the projects apart with Deerhunter’s excellent 2008 release Microcastle and last year’s Atlas Sound album Logos, which found Cox focusing his hooks and amping up the velvety sensuality of his soundscapes. On Halcyon Digest, Cox’s two halves finally meet in the middle on a collection of grabby pop songs sung by a witty weirdo with newly discovered sex appeal.
Halcyon Digest plays like a mix-tape of Cox’s most successful recent experiments; it’s officially a Deerhunter record, but “Don’t Cry” and “Revival” sound like Atlas Sound cuts that have been polished beyond their first-take scruffiness. (The bare-bones doodle “Sailing,” on the other hand, might as well have been recorded yesterday.) The luscious shoegazing of “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs” are more in line with the Deerhunter of Microcastle, while the swaggering Strokes/Springsteen pastiche “Coronado” recalls the genre-hopping of the band’s EPs. Then there are new breakthroughs like the fractured finger-snapping pulse carrying “Helicopter,” which finds Cox venturing ever so close to full-on R&B. Halcyon Digest isn’t always a cohesive listen, but the record gels where it counts—it’s all great.