[INDIE ROCK] Deer or the Doe’s debut album, Go to Sleep Quit Listening , is a tease. Recorded with engineer Skyler Norwood (who’s worked with the likes of Talkdemonic and Horse Feathers), it’s an arresting, six-track indie-rock escapade sliced with lo-fi twinkling pop. But despite all the restless riffs waiting to break out into spastic mayhem, it leads you to the brink only to make a conscious decision not to cross the line.
This restraint is new to frontman Aaron Miller, whose previous band, Curse of the Carousel Pony, found its voice in off-key punk erratics. Deer or the Doe, on the other hand, keeps us on edge, cutting climaxes short and taming instrumentals with a glossier finish under Miller’s more subdued, sandpapery croon.
But despite its often frustrating stricture, Go to Sleep is a solid debut with definite repeat-button-ready songs—the aptly titled “Controlled Descent” in particular. The dance-driven duet takes on both quiet harmonies and strained yelling with marked precision. Laden with catchy choruses and an abundance of line repetition and rhyming, the songs are governed by a level-headedness that tightens their sound—but it also causes them to lose the energy that comes with unpredictability.
Miller has set aside the past, though, leaving CotCP behind to peddle polishingly in-check vocals. Cassie Neth, however, picks up where Miller fades off. Adding vital texture and needed momentum with additional, dueling vocals and wavering, blissful keyboard, she’s arguably the linchpin holding the whole project together. On “Start from the Start,” for instance, the album really hits its stride thanks to Neth and Miller’s coupling. The two confidently confront desperation, singing: “I’ll dig two graves and lay in the third,” perfectly accenting each other with cool composure and liberating strain, respectively. “This Bird Doesn’t Make Sense” is similarly wrought with gorgeous noise and guitar distortion that allows the band to shed the coherence that keeps it uncomfortably tight.
Live, Deer or the Doe roars with a riotous glow that comes naturally. But even though the quartet soars in a stuffy, enclosed basement, its album needs just a little more room to breathe.
Deer or the Doe celebrates the release of Go to Sleep Quit Listening Friday, Aug. 31, with Junkface and the Greater Midwest at Rotture. 9 pm. $6. 21+.