[sic] Magazine

Atlas Sound – Logos

Bradford Cox’s second album as Atlas Sound splits the difference between the deeply personal, atmospheric sound of his Atlas Sound debut, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, and the concise indie-rock songsmithery of last year’s Deerhunter album, Microcastle.

According to Cox’s infamous blog – on which he posts dozens of mp3s for his fans to swoon over (and his detractors to use as ammo) – he wrote these songs around the same time as Microcastle, but can’t even remember putting some of these floaty psych-pop tunes to tape. This is both a blessing and a curse: there’s some free-flowing beauty here, but also a lack of overall coherence to elevate the record to greatness.

Opener ‘The Light That Failed’ is simply gorgeous, akin to ‘Visiting Friends’ from Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs. Acoustic guitars are strummed, Cox intones a hushed vocal line, and luscious squelching sounds lap at the edges of the folky quiet, threatening to overwhelm the song. This segues beautifully into the simultaneously driving yet languid ‘An Orchid’, with its double-tracked vocals curling around the mix like wisps of smoke.

This exquisite balance between conventional songcraft and the joys of fucking around with sound, which Cox seems perpetually drawn to, is in its best evidence on the album’s centrepiece ‘Quick Canal’, featuring Laetitia Sadier. The first half is great, albeit quite conventional: droning organs, Sadier’s ethereal vocal, and a driving rhythm section. Then, halfway through, the song hesitates momentarily before driving onward again, riding a squall of distorted guitar. Glorious. In fact, the run from ‘The Light That Failed’ to ‘Quick Canal’ is pretty damned great. Only ‘Walkabout’, featuring Noah Lennox, interrupts the flow. This is a shame as it’s a decent tune – basically a Panda Bear song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Person Pitch – but here it feels a little upbeat and inane with its childlike refrain: “What did you want to see? / What did you want to be when you grew up?”

This frustrating sequencing means that it tends to be individual songs that I return to, rather than the album as whole, whether it’s the opening pair, ‘Quick Canal’, or the absurdly catchy ‘Shelia’. Plus, sometimes the influences are too strong to ignore. As well as the Animal Collective influence on ‘The Light That Failed’, I can also hear Sparklehorse on ‘Criminals’ and ‘Kid Klimax’. Not a bad thing seeing as these influences are great, but I’m yet to be convinced that Cox has quite transcended his peers, as some quarters seem to suggest. In the meantime, I’m more than happy to listen to Cox’s ongoing explorations with the pop form, which he can undoubtedly manipulate in exciting and addictive ways.