Deerhunter's most recent EP, 2007's excellent Fluorescent Grey, predicted the success of last year's sublime Microcastle in a few key ways. Primarily, it was an indication that the Atlanta band had begun to back away from "ambient-punk" experiments, in order to better hone their lovelorn guitar rock. It's tempting then to view their short collection of brand new songs, titled Rainwater Cassette Exchange, as another container for predictive tea leaves. But as the sparkling harmonies of the title track enunciate its gloomy first line, "Two weeks of misery," fans will be swept right back into the last record's enveloping ennui. While the notably prolific group isn't yet bounding towards new ground, every inch of progress seems to further elucidate a singular pop purpose. There might not be a band on the planet making such lovely music from such lonely sentiment.
Though minor, the EP's stylistic tweaks are uniformly successful. Initially, "Disappearing Ink" sounds an awful lot like the Strokes, if Casablancas and Co. had been concerned with questions more existential than "why won't you wear your new trench coat?" Upon subsequent listens, the way its spry garage–pop beat subtly morphs into one of the band's signature motorik grooves becomes more intriguing than the familiarity of its slashing guitar and through-a-megaphone vocals. "Famous Last Words" is a trippy little trifle, in which Bradford Cox mentally swaps his bedroom longing for theremin-scored sci-fi dread. "Game of Diamonds" applies warm synth and a hippies-on-bongos feel to tidy, misty-eyed 60s balladry, with elegant results. The bright and relentless closer "Circulation" (a first stab at songwriting by drummer Moses Archuleta) comes galloping in from the horizon and spreads out gracefully, never losing its initial locked-in momentum. "Done with the highlights," sing Cox and Lockett Pundt, in their magically deflated way, shyly disconnected from the fact that highlights are all Rainwater Cassette Exchange contains.