Lotus Plaza – “Strangers”

By: Jack Stein

The dichotomy between Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt, the two principal songwriters of Deerhunter, is tempting to oversimplify. Cox is larger-than-life, donning dresses and playing “My Sharona” for an hour to rile up his detractors; Pundt stares at his feet and meekly mumbles his impressionistic lyrics like the myriad of quietly tortured indie frontmen that came before him. However, to anyone paying attention to the Atlanta quartet’s steady ascent over the last five years, Pundt is truly coming into his own as Cox’s equal half. From the quietly devastating “Like New” of the Fluorescent Grey EP to  Halcyon Digest‘s “Desire Lines”, arguably the best song in the Deerhunter canon, Pundt has been at the forefront of some of his band’s most compelling moments, finding his voice as a songwriter and a vocalist while reconciling his head-in-the-clouds romanticism with a dash of Cox’s pop song sensibility.

If “Desire Lines” was a tantalizing preview of what Pundt is capable of when given the reins, consider “Strangers” his coming-out party. The first track released from his solo project Lotus Plaza’s sophomore LP, “Strangers” showcases Pundt toeing the line brilliantly between hazily askew beauty and infectiously melodic muscle. Hearing the cascading drum fills that open the driving track recalls Dylan plugging in his guitar at the start of “Like A Rolling Stone”: the listener becomes aware that shit’s about to get real, that this artist is pushing his sonic boundaries to another level.

Pundt’s guitar playing has traditionally evoked smears of autumnal red and orange hues, painting wistful soundscapes for Cox’s ruminations on mortality to inhabit. Here, the tone Pundt conjures is more seasonally apropos, the twinkling lead guitar not unlike a shimmering spring sunrise. The sheer brightness of this track can’t be overstated; while Halcyon Digest was lauded for bringing the band’s fuzzy sonics into clear focus, the record was still inundated with a sensation of loss and nearly overpowering nostalgia. On “Strangers”, Pundt is still wistful, but the newfound sunny optimism is nearly blinding by comparison; his vocal cadence even seems joyful, not an adjective you expect to use with these guys. The blissful guitar coda that closes the song, winding down before petering out during the final seconds, finds Pundt showcasing his songwriting chops, but it also illustrates an artist finally comfortable in his own shoes. By fusing the abstract with the concrete, the dark with the light, Pundt is making it easier to wait for the next record from his main band.

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