Bradford Cox's oversized persona threatens to overwhelm almost anything his band Deerhunter does. In concert, the singer/songwriter — who has Marfan syndrome and is shockingly thin — sometimes bloodies himself and otherwise makes people uncomfortable. On his group's blog, he battles music pirates and his own demons. But fans are wise to ignore the hype; almost two years after releasing the masterful Cryptograms, Deerhunter's new Microcastle is equally stunning, despite sounding completely different. Largely eschewing effects pedals and moving away from the endless dreamy soundscapes that informed the earlier work, Microcastle features cleaner guitars, piano interludes, and a poppier disposition. The album's tightly coiled title track lurks quietly for a solid two and a half minutes before the drums kick in and it turns into an anthemic banger featuring slightly distorted vocals. "Nothing Ever Happened" is six minutes of driving fuzz pop, while "Never Stops" masks its dark message ("my escape/ would never come") in a quick, hummable, Yo La Tengo-influenced melody. Microcastle has a few moments of downbeat ambience, but for the most part, the songs are focused, accessible, and full of hooks. Though this makeover may risk alienating core fans who preferred the band's sonic experimentation, many will find this less obtuse version of Deerhunter easier to endure.
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