I first saw Deerhunter at the Terrace F. Club, on the campus of Princeton University, during my junior year of college six years ago. Lead singer Bradford Cox was garbed in a dress. I didn’t know what to make of it at first; that is, until the music started. I was completely transfixed by their brand of alt rock, so much so that I couldn’t stop moving my legs and arms. My friends laughed at how much I was into it. For the first time in my life, I could not control myself in the face of such incredible music. In the case of Deerhunter, that feeling has lasted for me ever since that first show.
Deerhunter has grown up with us, the milennials. Their transformative second album, Cryptograms, was a blistering showcase of their punk roots as much as their presciently refined songwriting sensibilities. They were young then, and considering the trials of ill health that lead singer Bradford Cox has had to endure his whole life (he suffers from Marfan syndrome) it is understandable that they would showcase a little anger, and a little brashness, on that album.
Ultimately, Cox and Lockett Pundt, the other star of Deehunter who released an incredible album last year under his solo name Lotus Plaza, have reaffirmed their faith in humanity with every album since. And isn’t that what millenials are doing, trying to keep hope amid partisan bickering in Washington. Hope that we can conquer climate change, the debt problem, and the other pressing issues that will define our generation?
Deerhunter’s hope was apparent on their double album Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. On “Backspace Century,” the opening track of the second side (Weird Era Cont.), Cox sings “send my regards to those who suffer endlessly, send my regards to those who suffer hopelessly.” Deerhunter were no longer looking inwardly at their own troubles; Cox & co. had turned their eyes outward, to others, with the hope that their music could inspire help for all those who’ve been traumatized in much the same way Cox has been with his debilitating physical ailments.
Deerhunter’s reaffirmation of life truly climaxed, however, on Halcyon Digest. On this album, they open up in ways they only hinted at on their previous albums. And they open up about things that are plaguing every millenial’s mindset. On “Desire Lines,” one of the songs that Pundt has the most influence on, he sings about trying to find peace amidst the chaos of growing up. “Everyday do what you can,” he says. “And if you let them turn you ‘round, whatever goes up, must come down.” We like to think that as we mature, what other people do will have less effect on us. But that isn’t the case for all millenials, as Lena Dunham would most certainly attest. The life-affirming quality of Halcyon Digest is quite plain on the cover of the album. Though the woman is deformed, she is looking up, praying, having hope even with her problems. And though Deerhunter does translate much of their hope from faith, it doesn’t take faith alone to have the hope to which all millenials are clinging.