There’s Still Time for Us to Die
Deerpeople’s debut album, There’s Still Time for Us to Die, came out in 2015, but it could have been released in 2005. Animal-centric monikers aside, the band has much in common with other pop-minded indie-rock acts from the mid-2000s: Frantic pacing, angular guitars, and tremulous synthesizers (á la Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown) are augmented by rousingly elegant choruses and orchestral flourishes (á la Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene). Nevertheless, through frontman Brennan Barnes’ invigorating, death-obsessed songwriting and the album’s deafening, clip-laden production, the Oklahoma-based band takes what would otherwise be formulaic or passé and makes it feel thrilling again.
The group has been kicking around the Oklahoma scene since 2009 or so, proving to be a live-performance force, and many of the songs on There’s Still Time for Us to Die have been central to its repertoire for almost as long. Coupled with how long an actual full-length record was teased, the familiarity of the material to those who have followed the band manifested in exceedingly high expectations. How would the colossal, confetti-caked nature of their concerts translate to the studio? Pretty damn well, as it turns out. This album needed to be loud, and thanks to studio wizards Trent Bell and Garrett Haines, who respectively mixed and mastered the record, it is.
But this torn and frayed suit isn’t empty. Highlights “Funbar” and “Impala Abdul” feature instantly memorable hooks, centerpieces to their crafty arrangements and fractured vocal inflections that demonstrate how exhilarating Deerpeople can be when at their creative summit. The band is at its best when it’s at its poppiest, yet the more grandiose moments here often soar just as high. In “Reprise Pt. 1,” Barnes sings with tortured conviction, “If you wanna be the same, you all must die,” a line that suffuses deeper and deeper as the instrumentation and intensity build. Closer “Sad Dad Sunday” buoys and bounces along in its opening 100 seconds, coalescing temporarily to a piano and violin only to explode back into the frame. Moments like these — when the band’s knack for disarming melody fuses with resplendent climaxes — are just as engaging as the more straightforward pop offerings.
The highs attained on There’s Still Time for Us to Die are enough to forgive its lows; neither “The Wetness” nor “She Skates Boards, and She Gets Real High” are as potent or memorable as their neighbors on the tracklist, and the album’s momentum fractures a bit as a result. Yet the overarching elements on display are enough to peg the record as one of the best released in 2015, Oklahoma or otherwise. Despite the album’s once-mythological, will-it-ever-be-released reputation, Deerpeople have reaffirmed the notion that no wait is too long if the results are first-rate.