Strange and wonderful indie rock from Deerhoof
I’m going to write up an album today that I have been sitting on for a while because… well… it’s pretty weird. The thing is I keep on digging the songs when they come up on my iPod. The band is Deerhoof and I discovered them at the library. I actually picked up “Offend Maggie” first with no idea who they were and flipped for 3 of the tracks on that album. I started trying to find other Deerhoof releases and found “Friend Opportunity,” the album I’m recommending today.
When I started researching this album today I was wondering if I was going to find much information on Deerhoof. I thought they were newcomers because the sound is so fresh and unusual and I had never heard of them. Turns out they have been an evolving indie act since 1994, inching slowly toward mainstream success.
Over the years, they went from opening for Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth to opening for The Roots and Wilco to opening for The Flaming Lips and Radiohead. Recently, they were invited by David Bowie to play the Highline Festival in New York City and made their network television debut on Last Call with Carson Daly. They’ve been on an upward trajectory all these years. And now you’ve heard of them, too.
I give them some of the highest praise I can bestow on a band: their music doesn’t sound like anything else I own. The guitar work is often complex and heavy, but always catchy. The percussion work makes you notice it, but not in an obnoxious way at all. It is always appropriate and you notice it because it isn’t just rhythm for the music; it is another instrument. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals are intentionally strange – at times dreamy or childlike or lovely at need.
“Friend Opportunity” is a cool album because it alternately makes you want to dance or stand very still and listen to what they’re doing. There isn’t a song on the disc I don’t like, but there are some I would be reluctant to recommend. Check out these 5 winners, though.
- The Perfect Me – The guitar hook in this is fantastic, the vocals are childish and strange, and the bridge rocks out. The drummer is working his butt off on this track.
- Believe E.S.P. – This song is completely different from the last, but again the guitar hook is great, the drums work well with the groove, and Matsuzaki’s vocals fit right in without echoing the guitar melody.
- The Galaxist – The unusual guitar line rings and growls while Matsuzaki croons an odd vocal melody. It’s very engaging, though. The arrangement is fantastic.
- Cast Off Crown – The frantic intro gives way to a quiet keyboard-laced groove behind which Matsuzaki doesn’t sing. Instead one of the men sings, but he does so in almost as high a voice.
- Matchbook Seeks Maniac – This is an accessible pop song. It’s a little odd, but still one of the most mainstream sounding tracks on the disc, I think. It’s also odd that someone set this North Korean propaganda video to this music. Unless this is the official video. They might be weird enough to do that.
The two albums I have are Deerhoof’s most recent releases. I will be interested to see the band’s evolution in reverse as I make my way back through the catalog I realized only today they have.
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