If there is any consensus in 2014, it’s that Deafheaven’s Sunbather is the metal record of the year. And to see Sunbather or any other metal album break out of the metal ghetto to end up on best album lists (Stereogum, P4k), when what metal has done over the past decade is to run as far away from every other musical form out there—well, that just calls into question what Deafheaven is all about. Me, I think Sunbather is better than anything in this universe since “Black Metal Vegan Chef”. You have to wonder though if Burzum would have approved the album title: don’t Deafheaven know that chronic sun exposure causes skin damage? So, to help the unitiated, let’s compare Sunbather with its obvious predecessor, Sunny Day Real Estate’s much-lauded emo apotheosis, LP2 aka the Pink Album.
The font is much smaller and less runic on the Pink Album cover.
The tempos are basically the same and frequently loping, although Deafheaven’s Daniel Tracy uses metal two-bass blast beats so the actual blams-per-minute on Sunbather are faster in multiples of two to four. Sunny Day Real Estate swings on occasion. Neither rock in the formal sense.
Both records beat a path back directly to the pastoral prog of early Genesis. We have quiet interludes, glistening albeit meandering epics, funny time signatures, spoken-word sections. My biggest shock is that the recitation from The Unbearable Lightness of Being is on the Deafheaven album.
Deafheaven are orcs, Sunny Day Real Estate are elves (in Elvish).
Gimme a break.
Verdict: Forget the shoegaze/best MBV-album-of-the-year comments. But don’t expect Sab or Slayer fans to fall in line for Sunbather either. Deafheaven have made the only metal album I can imagine listening to, wistfully, in a room full of people with malocchios on one hand and mochas in the other.