Deerhoof: Miracle-Level

With Deerhoof’s nineteenth full-length release, Miracle-Level, the San Francisco quartet deliver their first album sung entirely in Japanese. Miracle-Level is also Deerhoof’s first album to be created in an actual studio, which is remarkable considering the group has been making music together for just shy of three decades. Recorded and mixed in just two weeks during the summer of 2022, the new LP has been described by the band as their “mystical manifesto on creativity and trust.”

Miracle-Level is kicked off in splendid style with the dynamic “Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story”, a song that has the band building tension with start/stop guitar and vocals before Greg Saunier’s spirited drumming releases the group into a proggy downhill race. The song’s lyrics seem to abstractly describe a diva’s singing alongside the naming of naturalistic elements, including lightning, wind, birds, and rats. “My Lovely Cat!” makes for a perfect second song in the sequence. Although most likely unintentional given the band’s musical inspirations for the record (Rosalía, Les Frères Michot, and Mozart among others), the track’s tempo and instrumentation is at times reminiscent of the Kinks’ “Victoria” mixed with the emotive lead guitar on George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”. The downtempo “The Poignant Melody” provides a short, thoughtful, laidback respite from Miracle-Level’s speedy openers. Another ephemeral moment occurs two songs later with “Jet-Black Double-Shield”, a quirky instrumental that seems to serve only as a means of resetting listeners’ ears for the album’s second half.

Miracle-Level’s title track features singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s most gentle and effective vocals. An organ helps enhance the song’s tenderness as Satomi sings about needing only love songs and imploring listeners to wash their misty eyes and dirty hands with love. The unusually groovy “The Little Maker” has a distinctly early-70s vibe and ends up being one of the two best songs on the album’s backend. The other side B standout is the record’s penultimate track, “Momentary Art of Soul!”, which, with a running time of just over five minutes, is also the album’s longest. With its staggered rhythm and repetitive, chaotic guitar styling, the song is trademark Deerhoof.

Miracle-Level is concluded with the Saunier-sung “Wedding, March, Flower”, a pretty, swaying ballad that features the drummer accompanied by a plaintive piano. The ender makes for a wistful-yet-hopeful finale, one that closes with the poetic lines, “Let’s walk closely together, let’s live, I can hold an umbrella for you for a long time.” All told, Miracle-Level is a solid collection, one that does a good job showcasing Deerhoof’s creative breadth without compromising the sonic traits the band has come to be known for.

Rating: 7.0/10

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