For a project originally started as a way for Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox to give a voice to his despairing isolation (he records completely alone) as a teenager, Atlas Sound is starting to sound like an arena-filling, widescreen pop project. Logos, Cox’s second proper solo album, takes the dense, gray worlds of Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See, But Cannot Feel and puts them through a rainbow, delivering a splendid album.
If there’s one word to describe Logos, it’s “watery.” And in that regard, Logos shares a lot in common with Merriweather Post Pavilion (and Deerhunter’s Rainwater Cassette Exchange from earlier this year). Both albums trade in dreamy avant-pop landscapes buoyed by soggy atmospherics. “Criminals” sways like a shipping vessel in choppy seas, while the album’s great closing third (“My Halo” through the title track) sounds like it was transmitted from that underwater base in the third season of Lost. Cox is still reliant on the general ambiance that envelops his solo work, but here he’s willing to let his vocals float above the mix. And while musically this is brighter, he’s still all Debbie Downer. Old standby lyrical tropes of growing old (on “Sheila” Cox sings “we will grow old” like he’s reassuring someone else), loneliness (“Attic Lights”) and lost hope (“The Light that Failed”) show up repeatedly, and he still sounds like he’s on his deathbed when he sings.
But for an album created largely by one guy alone in his room, the guest performances shine the most on Logos. Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier wrote the lyrics for “Quick Canal,” a sprawling, shoegazey track that never loses its motorik motion, peaking repeatedly in its eight minutes. The bubbly “Walkabout,” the high-profile track with Animal Collective’s Panda Bear lives up to all the hypertext spilled about it this summer, delivering the best of both Panda Bear’s effervescent youthful innocence and Cox’s wistful yearning.
Logos, while just the second solo album from the frontman for a band of marginal fame, represents the latest and greatest chapter in Cox’s ride to indie stardom. He rose to prominence mid-decade as a confrontational trickster riding blog-hype (circa Cryptograms), continuing with a solo album to build his brand (Let the Blind), an indie-rock masterwork (Microcastle) and a solo album of nearly as high repute (Logos). As for what’s next, Cox has remained mum (though Deerhunter might be taking a hiatus), but with Logos, he ensures we’ll all be waiting.