Listening to Logos over the past few days, I've realized that I don't consume media (or, if you will, art) like I think I should. See, I've always felt that I should go into everything with an open mind: even if I've read reviews of a movie or album ahead of time, I should still try to approach it with just my critical lens and non-critical gut reactions in tow. Now I have to admit that I actively go into everything wanting to like it. I'm not sure if this is a better or worse way to do things. It might be amplifying my initial love or disappointment artificially, but then again, I reserve final judgment for later. This is why I don't write "previews" of any kind. Assuming I did, I might've dropped Logos right away and not gone back for more listens.
I'm struggling with a way to explain this as succinctly as possible, but Logos doesn't leave a good first impression. Bradford Cox has been on such a string of greatness in his main band, Deerhunter, and with his solo project. Atlas Sound, that it's hard not to hold this album to a very high standard. So that might be part of it. Also, at least on first listen, the album feels like a collection of Microcastle (and Weird Era Cont.) leftovers, skeletal demos, and two collaborations that sound less like "Atlas Sound meets Panda Bear/meets Stereolab" and more like "an Atlas Sound remix of a Panda Bear/Stereolab song." Compared to the surprisingly hook filled Microcastle or the consistently brilliant ambient-pop/electronic atmospheres of the previous Atlas Sound album, Let The Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel, Logos offers no immediate delights beyond the aforementioned Panda Bear and Stereolab guests.
Since I wanted to like this album, I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. Logos, like Deerhunter's Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP from earlier this year, is still a step down from Cox's previous releases, but it's still solid. Furthermore, my initial misgivings may just be a case of over-familiarity with the artist and his style. Once I listened to Logos a few more times past my initial disappointment, it began to reveal its subtle, interesting nature. Where Atlas Sound's last album, Let The Blind..., was a nuanced and dreamy piece of bedroom ambient-pop magic, this album is relatively straightforward bedroom indie rock. Logos may sound unfocused and unfinished at first--it did to me--but once I began to get what Cox was likely going for, these issues turn into assets. Namely, variety and stripped down songs. I don't know if it's actually true, but this album seems to have less layers of sound and instruments than the rest of Cox's work.
Logos retains the intimacy of the previous album while feeling less clinical and withdrawn. 'Sheila' contains one of Cox's simplest and warmest melodies, while the title track wraps his vocals in lo-fi fuzz. The irony of all of this is that once I got into Logos, I ended up liking the two collaborative tracks much less. 'Walkabout' and 'Quick Canal' are fine by any measure, but they sound too much like Panda Bear and Stereolab largely because the respective singers of both bands are at the heart of each song. The former kind of reminds me of a more 60s style remake of the electro-loop from Animal Collective's 'Water Curses', while the latter doesn't even feature Cox's voice (at least that I can recall) and only starts to feel like an Atlas Sound track when the song short circuits halfway through and a wall of shoegazer noise descends like a curtain.
Anyway, yes, Logos does feel like a step down from Cox's last Atlas Sound and Deerhunter releases, and the collaborative tracks, while good, kind of don't work for me in the context of the rest of the tracks. But it's still a very good album and one that fans of his work are sure to enjoy; they may just need to dial down the expectations or give it some time to fully appreciate it.