It’s always exciting to come across something new and different, no matter what you are dealing with. It’s even more exciting when you find something new in the world of music, where formulas and recreations are too often relied on to create something with mass appeal. The result is usually trite and meaningless, even offensive. Originality goes a long way, and Deerhoof has created something truly original with Apple O’.
The songs on Apple O’, Deerhoof’s fifth full-length, are hard to define or categorize. Overall, the album is very up-beat and happy. The songs are quirky, if not schizophrenic, with plenty of starts and stops, highs and lows. The time changes are strange and complicated, in the vein of math rock. And if the listener isn’t paying close attention, the album may blend in to one half-hour-long song. At times the music is catchy and poppy, with jangly, melodic guitars and a steady drum beat. Other times the guitars are heavily distorted and the drumming is sloppy, heavy and frantic, making for a truly rockin’ feel.
The originality of the music wouldn’t be complete without an original vocalist. Satomi Matsuzaki’s voice is the perfect accompaniment to the instruments. She accentuates the high-pitched guitar parts by singing only "ba"s or "la"s and matching the guitar with her voice, note for note. During the heavier parts, her sweet, Japanese-accented voice becomes the perfect contrast to the rest of the music. Matsuzaki’s voice is beautiful and irresistible.
Songs like "Panda Panda Panda," where Matsuzaki expresses her love for pandas, come across as pure fun with no agenda other than to make the listener smile. There are references to nature and temptation throughout Apple O’, making it feel almost like a concept album. It’s hard to tell what point Matsuzaki is trying to make, though, because of her minimal lyrics and odd references.
While Apple O’ is good as a whole, there are a few standout tracks on the album. "Sealed with a Kiss," has a more electronic feel, combining horn and guitar loops with both live and programmed drumming. "Apple Bomb" stands out as one of Deerhoof’s most developed songs to date. The song feels complete and thought out while still maintaining the originality of the bands music. The last two tracks, "Adam+Eve Connection" and "Blue Cash," have a slightly different sound than the rest of the album. They are minimal songs with a lo-fi sound, using acoustic guitar and a male singer for an almost folk rock feel.
Apple O’ is not for everyone. The album does things musically that will not appeal to the masses. But that’s what makes it original, and its originality makes it great. Fans of what Deerhoof has done in the past will continue to appreciate the music that they currently make. New listeners may have to give the album a few tries before they fully understand that Deerhoof has created a crazy, fun, happy album, and a sound that is entirely original.