There really is a lot of good music being made in the era we live in. There seems to be a boost of creativity where artists make music, almost, on a yearly basis with multiple bands and acts. It recalls that splendid time in the late 50s where Jazz artists were tearing out album after album. And now we have a splendid array of artists that contribute so much to our music scene, people like Spencer Krug, Jack White, Dan Bejar and now, Bradford James Cox. After a great 2007 with Deerhunter, seeing the release of a great LP and maybe, even better EP, Cox is back with his first album as Atlas Sound, the brilliantly amazing, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel.
The point of the Deerhunter hiatus was so that the band members could align their personal lives before recording again. Well it seems as if Cox has used this period to compensate his musical ideas. A lot of the same Deerhunter characteristics occupy Let the Blind…: ambient instrumentals, isolated lyrics and that cool psychedelia but this is still an exceptionally distinctive sound.
The album begins with an unsettling story featuring a young boy recounting a ghost story; the song is also named the same thing. The music alone, with its eerie touches and minor chords is frightening enough. The music changes a bit from here with nice upbeat pieces like the slow chug of “Recent Bedroom,” propelled by bells and soft drums. The keyboards show up two songs later on the appealing, easy-going “Quarantined.” The drums appear in a louder volume but only to give the song that added dimension aiding in creating one of the better songs on the album. And though this song sounds relatively pleasant, the lyrical content is certainly disturbing. The song was inspired when Cox learned about children having to stay in quarantined hospitals because they had the AIDS disease. However, it is a bitter omen as these children received AIDS because of their parent’s various lifestyles and mistakes. Cox relates to this as he had to spend many lonely times in hospitals due to his Marfan Syndrome. The song is a sweet sounding track but the lyrics, “quarantined and kept so far away from my friends” scream of distressing estrangement.
Another song, “Cold as Ice” follows a guitar loop set up by Cox’ friend Lockett Pundt depicting the story of Cox’ relationship with a childhood friend. The music is menacing and very much anger-infused. Cox had asked her to marry him in the 5th grade to where she denied only to later work together in a Subway restaurant. For some reason, this girl friend would make Cox watch her change in the restaurant’s refrigerator, which was “cold as ice.”
That’s what’s really special about this album; almost each song on this 14-track album has a detailed and wondrous story behind it. The music of “Bite Marks” is downtrodden with tribal drums and a repetitive keyboard loop and is about boy prostitution. And all of the instrumental songs on here are chillingly beautiful pieces of music as well. They all serve an immense purpose in the album’s sonic scope. As the album begins on a dreamy note, the last instrumental (the title track) ends the album in a hazy sense because Cox wanted the entire album to feel like a psychedelic dream.
The touches of spectral luster and the repetitive loops are gorgeous and every single one of Cox’ ideas marvelously work on Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel. As someone who regards the B-52’s lead singer, Ricky Wilson, as one of his heroes, Bradford Cox has done him proud. This is a special album, a headphone-rewarding listen that is filled with sad, depressing stories and that all reveal an inner look to Cox’ unique and interesting life. The music married to these wonderful lyrics is touching, gorgeous and stunning and there is no doubt in my mind that Atlas Sound has created, arguably, the best album of the year.