As much as I’ve been trying, I can’t keep myself from chuckling at that 7-Eleven jingle about “Oh, thank heaven…” and weirdly enough applying it to Deafheaven. Silly, yes.
With Deafheaven’s new record, Sunbather, the sheer brilliance and genius of the band can’t be denied. Surely some haters will try, but they will fail miserably. And if you’ve listened to, and love, Roads to Judah, then you will not only be pleased but completely blown away by the new one.
As soon as Sunbather was announced, the anticipation built up like crazy. Especially for the vinyl release. The album is scheduled to be widely released on June 11th, and as with all things Deathwish Inc., pre-orders went up earlier. This past Tuesday as a matter of fact. And without a hitch. No system crashes. No oversells. No immediate selling out. Although the one particular color did sell out in about an hour as it was limited to one per customer, so presumably the most limited.
And it started arriving at people’s homes and blowing minds away all over again.
Deathwish have gotten smart with their last few releases in that instead of the usual pre-order mayhem and uncertainty of colorways, they have put up the records already on hand and allowing customers to choose which colors they prefer. Some more limited than the others of course.
Sunbather was no exception to this new approach. Colors were already known and it was clear that the Clear with Splatter would be the most limited as it was “one per customer”. The other two colors are Hot Pink & Beer and Red & Gold.
In the pics is hard to discern much difference between the Hot Pink and the Red, but in person it’s evident what each is. Although the Hot Pink looks like a more muted red when you look at it.
The packaging and design of the sleeve and jacket were done by Nick Steinhardt of Touché Amoré. He has done a few record art designs before and this one for Sunbather is top-notch. It’s simple and understated but also bold. The diecut detail in both front and back of the jacket are a nice touch. Adds a little punch to the overall image and design.
There is some “criticism” on why put in a 2xLP in a single record jacket. Especially when Roads to Judah was a single LP in a gatefold jacket. Missed opportunity? Band and/or label decision? Not sure we may find out. But myself personally can go either way with it. Yes, it would have been cool to have been in a gatefold jacket, but it also works as a single jacket given how the diecuts are. That’s just me. Other record nerds will still bitch and moan about something or other on this release.
(Edit: I got in touch with Steinhardt about the art and design of the release and he shared this with me about the packaging: “The non gatefold was a conscious decision to aid the design and dictate the way certain details revealed while opening it”)
Hell, I’ve heard some complaining about the colors for the vinyl, even the splatter, which I think looks great as all hell.
Deafheaven’s Sunbather is a great record through and through. There is no doubt about that. It takes a new step in the band’s evolution with their music and songwriting but also with how it’s presented musically and visually with the record itself. This is already making its way to plenty of people’s Top Lists for 2013, mine included.
And to be completely lazy with my closing statement, I’ll just copy the proper review I wrote for Sunbather.
If there is such a thing as a sophomore record slump in music, then Deafheavenmust not have gotten that memo. And even if they did, they tore it to shreds and burnt it in a funeral pyre, as clearly evidenced in the brilliance of Sunbather. In this eagerly anticipated second record, the Bay area black metal shoegaze amalgamists have created a document in music and beautiful noise. It’s not easy to mix disparate and unlikely genres, but Deafheaven have done it so well that it looks and sounds easy.
Sunbather opens easily enough with “Dreamhouse” which is a standard showcase in the band’s sound. But as the song evolves and is followed by the later tracks, it’s apparent that Deafheaven have expanded their sound and style in the two years since Roads to Judah. Where Roads was a much darker and heavy album, Sunbather is more expansive, faster, and yet still heavier nonetheless. The best example of this new approach and heaviness is in the songs “Please Remember” and “Vertigo.” The former track builds up the noise and nuances, then bleeds into the latter and explodes in a chaotic wall of noise. And therein lies Deafheaven’s true essence as a band and as musicians. It’s the perfect harmony and balance of subdued and serene with the ugliness of heavy and dark.
Two things are clear listening to Sunbather. First, this album is a start-to-end record that has to be taken in as a whole. Each and every song compliments the one preceding and following it. The ambience and feel throughout is harmonious in that all the tracks work together to create a mood. Second, is that mood itself. This is an emotional record. It may be heavy and dark and fast at times, but it is rife with emotion. Sunbather gives you the sense of seeking a light in a world full of darkness. It is almost the musical question of the conundrum that plagues each of us since birth: why am I here? But better yet, it is the soundtrack to our search for equilibrium in this world where stability in shaky ground is ever-so elusive.
Sunbather is the album where Deafheaven expands not only their sound, but also breaks free of any and all preconceived notions anyone may have had of what they are supposed to sound like. This album is relentless with enough moments to reflect and breathe in all that we’re hearing. And hopefully closely listening to.
And oh yeah. No pressing info as of yet.
It’s being assumed that it may be the “typical” Deathwish Inc. run of 300/700/1,000. We shall see soon enough.