A quick scan of Deerhunter's body of work -- which includes album and song titles like Fading Frontier and "Memory Boy" -- serves as a reminder that the fleeting nature of life is something that has fascinated Bradford Cox and company for years. Until the band's eighth album, these meditations on ephemerality were deeply personal. On Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, Cox looks at the world around him with the same intensity that he used to examine his own life on earlier albums. Though this shift in perspective was brought on by the political climate of the late 2010s, Deerhunter's version of resistance isn't to rail against only the injustices of that era, but against a seemingly endless history of inhumanity and death with songs that sound deceptively life-affirming. The band's skill at pairing devastating subject matter with chiming melodies has never been quite so subversive as it is on the album's first two tracks. On "Death in Midsummer" -- which sounds as anthemic as a song about the piles of bodies left in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917 can -- Cate Le Bon's brittle harpsichord expresses the band's prickly nature and fondness for the unexpected rather than the refinement it usually signifies in pop music. "No One's Sleeping," a song inspired by the assassination of Labour Party MP Helen Joanne Cox, cloaks lyrics like "There's much duress/Violence has taken hold" in buoyant keyboards and brass. Later on the album, Cox is unflinching yet compassionate as he reflects on the inevitability of fading away on the ghostly standout "What Happens to People?" Poignant moments like this could easily be mistaken for nostalgia, but the sorrow that permeates Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? doesn't come from wishing things were the way they used to be; it's because things turned out the way they did. Deerhunter makes it abundantly clear that they're anti-nostalgia on the breezy "Futurism," and more indirectly on "Plains," a brief, brilliant sketch of friendship and loss that takes inspiration from James Dean's time filming Giant in Marfa, Texas, where the band recorded much of the album. The band balances these crystalline pop songs with tracks that explore the concept of impermanence in more abstract, yet complementary, ways, whether via the synth haze of "Greenpoint Gothic" or "Nocturne"'s transporting instrumental coda, which lets the album drift to a close in perfectly apt fashion. From the weariness and wonder in its title to the mix of delicacy and anger in its songs, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? is one of Deerhunter's most haunting and thought-provoking albums yet.
Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? Review
by Heather Phares