Review: Deakin’s “Sleep Cycles” Will Wake You Up

When psychedelic-pop powerhouse Animal Collective dropped their tenth studio album Painting With earlier this year, it was met with mixed reviews from committed fans and casual listeners alike.

Yet, co-founding band member Josh Dibb—best known under his pseudonym, Deakin—was nowhere to be found on the latest release. Many fans were left wondering if an appearance by the artist would have revitalized the group’s new direction.

Deakin has contributed to some of Animal Collective’s most influential projects—from the enchanted and stripped down recordings on Feels to the colourfully soaked instrumentals of Strawberry Jam, Deakin has established himself as a talented songwriter.

All inquires have been answered now—he’s been at work on his solo debut, Sleep Cycle. The project has had fans patiently waiting since 2009, when a Kickstarter to fund the album went live.

Sleep Cycle has finally been released through Deakin’s bandcamp page for all his eager, adoring fans to finally bear witness.

The album kicks off with “Golden Chords”—a song that will give any die hard Animal Collective fan a blast from the past, hitting them right in the nostalgic feels.

The instrumentals—gentle with light guitar accompanied by a sample of what sounds like wind blowing by a serene lake—make the whole track feel fluid and tender.

This is reminiscent of the type of work that Deakin has attributed to in the past with the band’s discography. The warmth that the song draws upon is inspiring, and plays with themes of self-doubt and seeking confidence within oneself found in the song’s lyrics.

After the seamless transition from “Golden Chords” to “Just Am”—the only single released off the album—the high pitched piano synths of “Just Am” make their way in and out of the track.

Weaving between regularly tuned piano chords, the synth-y noises are met with playful singing. The song maintains a polished feel while sounding beautifully cluttered.

Deakin follows up “Just Am” with the first instrumental track on the LP titled, “Shadow Mine.” This short track feels like a throwback for any Animal Collective fan who misses the weird, ambient sounds that garnered the band such high praise in their long years of dominating the psychedelic pop genre.

On my first play-through of Sleep Cycle, I was unaware of which tracks I was listening to. Melting together effortlessly, I had originally thought the entire album was a half hour long track.

By the time I reached the last song, I was in awe at the cohesiveness of the project. Each transition from one song to the next felt natural and didn’t skimp on the artistic styling for which Deakin takes aim.

On the track “Footy,” Deakin pulls inspiration from his past line of work to form a piece of music that is truly unique to the artist’s palette. The parallel between this song and “Cuckoo Cuckoo”—off of _Strawberry Jam_—becomes instantly recognizable as noisy clashing drums are paired with disorderly piano playing, all reminiscent of the artist’s older contributions in Animal Collective.

The wall of noise in the last few minutes of the track is built beautifully, only to dissipate slowly into the next track, “Seed Song.”

“Good House,” the sixth and final track on Sleep Cycle, is an appropriate way to conclude the album. Deakin sings peacefully about staying positive in times of darkness, reminding listeners that they should never hesitate to reach out for help. He wants to prove that no one should have to face their internal struggles on their own.

In his solo-debut, Deakin has outdone himself—formulating the most confident piece of work that has come out from any of the members of Animal Collective in some time.

Sleep Cycle is like a beautiful recurring dream—once you wake up, the positive impact on the rest of your day is evident, and inspires you to keep an upbeat outlook on your current predicament in life.

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