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Atlas Sound

Logos

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Kranky

Back when there was all that fuss about the leak of Animal Collective’s phenomenal Merriweather Post Pavilion, Bradford Cox, the mastermind behind both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, posted his thoughts on the subject. Cox more or less made a plea for people to find more creative ways of holding off their anticipation for the next release of their favorite artist. His solution? Make your own version of what you expect that release to sound like. Some may have found this to be an illogical and impractical alternative to downloading, but Atlas Sound’s first two full lengths have both proven that Cox himself takes this concept pretty seriously.

For all practical purposes, the new Atlas Sound album begins with “Walkabout,” a collaboration with Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox that sounds like what one might suspect Cox imagined Merriweather Post Pavilion was going to be. Structured around an obscure sample from a song by mid-’60s garage rock outfit the Dovers, “Walkabout” is chipper pop bliss filtered through the lens of two of indie rock’s best and strangest songwriters. The keys chirp, the vocals tumble and fall around each other, all sorts of ambient textures are unfolding around the affair and a poor drum machine is left by itself to keep it all from crumbling. As a single, it’s like the sequel to Animal Collective’s own “My Girls,” catchier than it ought to be and despite that, still as experimental and edgy as what’s come to be expected from the artist.

The unfortunate side effect is that “Walkabout” causes the rest of the album to be somewhat of a disappointment. The bulk of Logos consists of light lo-fi pop such as “Criminals,” prominently featuring gentle electric strums and sloppy drums. “Sheila” comes close to matching the great heights of “Walkabout” but lacks the everything-but-the-kitchen sink craziness that allows “Walkabout” to go transcendental; “Quick Canal” similarly falls short but this time it’s a result of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier failing to exhibit the type of quirky vocal flourishes that Lennox used to keep “Walkabout” bubbly, the song as a result losing steam fairly quickly into its nearly nine-minute run.

Closing the album is the album’s title track, which has energy in abundance with a melody seeming like an afterthought, despite how delicately constructed the instrumentation itself seems to be. That feeling that the vocals were just tossed on is one that pervades the album; even though Cox is pretty open about Atlas Sound being mostly a bedroom project for himself, his debut full-length Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel didn’t suffer from that same tendency, its tracks appearing to be more substantial in development.

But let’s be clear: Logos is still an album with potential from a songwriter who could benefit from reigning in his output. Cox has plenty of great ideas but is sometimes handicapped by his unending stream of output; in the past year alone, he has issued 11 releases between Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, including EPs. Compared to what Cox is really capable of, Logos just seems like practice.

by Morgan Davis
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