Sunbather is the second studio album by American Blackgaze band Deafheaven, released on June 11, 2013. Recorded in five days, Sunbather marks the moment where Deafheaven fine-tuned their recent adoptions of Shoegazing and Post-Rock within their songwriting, first seen on their debut Roads to Judah. This is reflected in both the sound and length of the album - the total runtime is over an hour long with just seven tracks. Lyrically, Sunbather is meant to be a Concept Album regarding "the profound sadness found in the quest for one's personal perfection... serving as an artistic lucid dream of warmth despite the stinging pain of life's cruel idealism". Samples featured on this album, such as guitarist Kerry McCoy buying drugs, help compound this further.
Critically, Sunbather was a success by every definition of the word. At 92/100, Metacritic named it as the most critically acclaimed album of the year - the first metal record to ever do so. Sunbather is also credited with bringing blackgaze to the forefront (well, as much as it really could be). However, upon release, this album proved to be polarizing: black metal purists, without hesitation, denounced it as a mainstream-friendly monstrosity with influences that had no right to mix with each other. Others raved over it, and Deafheaven's popularity spiked to the point that they would play at festivals that were otherwise very minimal with their metal acts. In certain crowds, bringing up Sunbather could trigger major arguments. As the decade wore to a close, however, reception amongst those who rejected it began to improve, with its legacy and impact on metal in the 2010s being undeniable.
- "Dream House" (9:15)
- "Irresistible" (3:13)
- "Sunbather" (10:17)
- "Please Remember" (6:26)
- "Vertigo" (14:37)
- "Windows" (4:43)
- "The Pecan Tree" (11:27)
- George Clarke vocals, piano
- Kerry McCoy guitars, bass guitar
- Daniel Tracy drums
We presume our tropes is what must be:
- Arc Symbol: The lyrics repeatedly feature the motif of sunlight being obscured in some way (through sunglasses, curtains, and closed eyes, among other things). It's pretty clearly symbolic.
- Black Metal: Regardless of whether genre purists like it or not.
- Breather Episode: The even-numbered tracks.
- Calling the Old Man Out: "The Pecan Tree".
- Concept Album: Apparently.
- Design Student's Orgasm: Sure, even if it doesn't scream 'black metal album', there's a reason the cover's so memorable.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Windows" samples McCoy buying drugs in order to contrast the real-life hell of addiction with the metaphysical hell the preacher earlier in the track is ranting about.
- Epic Rocking: All the odd-numbered tracks.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Sunbather"/"Please Remember".
- For Want of a Nail: The spoken-word passage in "Please Remember" discusses a man's unease at the idea that his romance is essentially a matter of chance.
- Harsh Vocals: Literally all of them, except for the spoken word bits.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: As is the norm for black metal. At least Deafheaven, unlike a lot of other bands in the genre, print their lyrics.
- Instrumentals: "Irresistible", "Please Remember", "Windows" (although the latter two contain Spoken Word in Music and/or Sampling).
- Lighter and Softer: Than most other black metal.
- Mind Screw: Sunbather is described as a concept album. Even if you read the lyrics, you'll be stumped over what they really mean.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The album name displayed in a 3x3 block formation against a pink-and-orange background.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Mostly an 8 or 9 for the metal sections, while the Subdued Sections can drop as low as 1.
- Post-Rock: "Windows" sounds so much like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song it's surreal. Most of their instrumental pieces are pretty influenced by this genre, while the black metal songs are still influenced by it but not as much.
- Precision F-Strike: There's a vaguely audible one in the drug dealing section of "Windows". One of the speakers also says "dicked around" once as well.
- Purple Prose: The lyrics mostly consist of this.
- Sampling/Spoken Word in Music:
- "Please Remember" features a sample of Neige of Alcest reading a passage from Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
- "Windows" contains a sample of a street preacher ranting about hell and a sample of McCoy, who was addicted to pharmaceutical opiates at the time Sunbather was recorded, buying drugs. Clarke commented, "Thematically, it's supposed to be about this guy talking about the evils of hell intermixed with one's own personal hell and the actual realities like addiction and self-worth, not the fire and brimstone. [McCoy] didn't have a lot of money, and he was kind of desperate; he's showcasing the true horrors that are here on earth—one's own personal demons."
- Screamo: Certainly an influence on Sunbather, although possibly not as much as some people would like you to believe.
- Shoegaze: An influence on the band's layered guitar sound.
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Dream House"/"Irresistible".
- Special Guest: Neige on "Please Remember".
- Subdued Section:
- "Dream House" has one before breaking out into a guitar lead.
- "Sunbather" has one near the beginning and one towards the end.
- "The Pecan Tree" has one in the middle of the track.
- The even-numbered tracks serve as this for the whole album (not counting the noise section in "Please Remember").
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: Even in comparison to the other interludes, "Irresistible" stands out. "Please Remember" has noise in the middle and "Windows" is a pretty uneasy sample track, while "Irresistible" is purely a clean instrumental.