Deafheaven’s new fourth album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, is another revelation. Working with old friends again, the Shirley-produced and Steinhardt-art directed collection gets its title from Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair, referencing a moment when someone is looking for love, in all of its imperfection and simple beauty. This sentiment is carried throughout the hazy, yearning romanticism of the record with song titles and words as sumptuous as the sounds around them. It’s a feeling of a loved one growing distant, medicating yourself with empty sex with strangers, and tears in a place faraway from home.
Taking more literary cues, the lyrics to the expansive “Honeycomb” reference seminal Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar, author of the elaborately structured stream-of-conscious novel Hopscotch while another song, “Canary Yellow,” includes the line “I have wondered about the language of flowers.” Theres an abundance on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love—layered psychedelic vocals, classic rock riffs, jazzy percussion, a song reminiscent of Slowdive—and it all makes sense within the Deafheaven universe. Piano, always an element of the band’s sound, has a more prominent place here. It drives “You Without End,” which opens with the forlorn spoken word of Nadia Kury, who reads a moment from a short story by Oakland author Tom McElravey depicting the poetry of small, basic moments: you light a joint, look at a mural, burn yourself, and gaze at a surprise flock of geese flying overhead. In addition, Chelsea Wolfe and her regular collaborator Ben Chisolm add vocals and production to the dusky piano piece, “Night People.” Still, it’s all clearly Deafheaven. These songs have forward momentum and upward lift, Clarke’s pained howls and snarls and growls.
Defeat has inspired some of our best art. If you survive something terrible, you surface on the other side, walk toward the light, and come back to life. Everybody deals with hurt, everybody’s been the cause of their own implosions, and everybody has the capacity to overcome and love again. With Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven have found a way to externalize all of this, and in making their most complete record to date, they turn it into a balm, a warm blanket, and a cathartic exorcism.