Sunbather (album)

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This article is about the Deafheaven album. It is not to be confused with Sunbaker.
Deafheaven - Sunbather 2013.png
Studio album by Deafheaven
Released June 11, 2013 (2013-06-11)
Recorded January 2013[1] at Atomic Garden Studios in East Palo Alto, California[2]
Genre Post-metal, shoegazing, black metal[3]
Length 59:58
Label Deathwish (DW146)
Producer Jack Shirley, Deafheaven
Deafheaven chronology
Deafheaven / Bosse-de-Nage
New Bermuda

Sunbather is the second studio album by the American band Deafheaven. The album was recorded in January 2013[1] and released on June 11, 2013 by Deathwish Inc.[4] The album has been well-received with overwhelming critical acclaim.

Writing and recording[edit]

Deafheaven began writing new material for a follow-up to its April 2011 debut album Roads to Judah by September 2011.[5][6] At the time, the new material was originally described as being "faster, darker, a lot heavier and far more experimental"[5] than Roads to Judah, but as the new songs developed over time, vocalist George Clarke clarified that some of the material was darker and more aggressive, while other parts were far brighter, more melodic and pop-influenced.[7] Clarke said the goal of Sunbather was to expand Deafheaven's sound and express a "full spectrum of emotion."[7] There were a few changes to the band that allowed Sunbather to develop and progress from Roads to Judah. There was a longer gap between releases than before, which allowed more time for the members to grow as musicians.[7] Deafheaven also went through a major lineup change. The lineup that was established before Roads to Judah dissolved due to Deafheaven's rigorous touring schedule, little payout and the founding members' (Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy) strong work ethic.[8][9] As a result, Sunbather was composed primarily by Clarke and McCoy, similar to how Deafheaven's untitled demo was written. Daniel Tracy joined the band on drums toward the end of the writing process, about which Clarke commented: "his drum contributions are huge—he also helped shape the record for sure."[7]

The band entered Jack Shirley's Atomic Garden studio in East Palo Alto, California in January 2013 and recorded Sunbather in five days.[1][2] Deafheaven had worked with Shirley on all previous releases to date (Deafheaven's demo, Roads to Judah and Deafheaven / Bosse-de-Nage). Clarke appreciates different styles of production was originally open to hiring a different producer, but ultimately the group chose to work with Shirley again because they were already comfortable with him. On Shirley's performance as producer, Clarke said, "for this record, he definitely took on the role of producer much more than our previous efforts, which was awesome. It honestly felt like we accomplished this together and it felt great."[6] When the band recorded Roads to Judah, the members didn't make production part of their main focus. As a result, Clarke and McCoy wanted Sunbather to sound "bigger and slicker" than previous releases.[7] Deafheaven employed a number of studio techniques to achieve the desired sound for the album. McCoy tracked four guitar layers for most songs, two for both lead and rhythm guitars; the guitar parts incorporated a lot of whammy bar use to create a "dizzying effect" inspired by My Bloody Valentine's "glide guitar" technique; the vocal tracks were given echo chamber reverberation treatment during the mixing process; uptempo drum parts were recorded with closer microphones while "spacier sections" were recorded with ribbon microphones; and Sunbather was recorded on two-inch analog tape.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]


Sunbather contains seven tracks: four songs ("Dream House," "Sunbather," "Vertigo" and "The Pecan Tree") and three interludes ("Irresistible," "Please Remember" and "Windows"). The decision to weave shorter interlude tracks in between longer songs was made in the studio. Kerry McCoy wrote many riffs prior to the Sunbather-studio sessions, some of which featured a more clean guitar tone, and Deafheaven wanted to make use of them in some fashion. George Clarke commented, "Some of the things [McCoy] was writing weren't fitting into anything in particular—they were their own little pieces. And so rather than trying to exhaust them in a longer song, we thought, 'We don't want to waste these riffs; maybe we could use them as interludes.'"[7] Clarke also said the interludes are meant to aid the flow of the album by complementing other songs and that Sunbather is meant to be listened to "in one sitting all the way through."[7]

The first interlude, "Irresistible," is completely instrumental, but the other two tracks feature samples and guest vocals layered over comparatively softer, cleaner sounding music. The track "Please Remember" features guest contributions from Stéphane "Neige" Paut of Alcest reading a passage from Milan Kundera's 1984 novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.[9] Deafheaven met and became friends with Alcest when they toured together in March 2012, and wanted to collaborate together musically.[7] Originally, Paut was to contribute guest guitars, but because he lives in France and the distance makes musical collaboration difficult, he recorded himself reading the passage chosen by Deafheaven and sent that instead. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of Clarke's favorite books and he said that, "That passage is really important to me. It just screams insecurity, which I have huge faults with."[9] The final interlude, "Windows," features two interlacing audio samples. The first is a live recording of preacher in downtown San Francisco, California, about which Clarke said, "they're there all the time, yelling at crowds."[7] The second audio sample is a recording of McCoy dealing drugs. Around the time of recording Sunbather, McCoy was addicted to pharmaceutical opiates and Clarke wanted to record one of his drug deals to include something that was very personal to his fellow band member. Clarke commented on the content of "Windows," stating: "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."[7]

Artwork and album title[edit]

The cover artwork for Sunbather was designed by Nick Steinhardt of Touché Amoré,[10] who also designed the band's 2011 debut album Roads to Judah. The pink and orange colors on the cover are meant to resemble the color seen on the inside of one's eyelids when lying in the sun.[11] The inspiration to have the title Sunbather written out in a simple, block formation was drawn from Pulp's 2001 album We Love Life.[11] George Clarke named the album "Sunbather" because, "that's the feeling it gives me. It is the sadness and the frustration and the anger that comes with striving for perfection. Dreaming of warmth and love despite the pain of idealism."[6]


Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (92/100)[12]
Review scores
Source Rating
Absolutepunk 100%[13]
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[14]
The A.V. Club (A)[15]
CraveOnline (8.5/10)[3]
Consequence of Sound 4.5/5[16]
Decibel (9/10)[17]
Exclaim! (9/10)[18]
Pitchfork Media (8.9/10)[20]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[21]
Spin (8/10)[22]

Sunbather was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 92, based on 18 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[12]

Writing for Pitchfork, Brandon Stosuy labeled Sunbather a "Best New Album" and stated: "With Sunbather, Deafheaven have made one of the biggest albums of the year, one that impresses you with its scale, the way Swans' The Seer did last year. Like M. Gira's masterpiece, it has the ability to capture the attention of people who don't normally listen to heavy music."[20]


Sunbather's critical acclaim has led the album to be listed on several critic's "Best of 2013" lists, both in the US and internationally. Prior to the album's release, Sunbather was listed as an anticipated album of 2013 by Decibel,[23] Noisecreep,[24] The Skinny,[25] Spin[26] and Stereogum.[27] In mid-2013, Spin,[28] NPR[29] and Metacritic[30] declared the album to be one of the best albums of the year "thus far". Metacritic also declared that Sunbather was the best-reviewed album of 2013. Further, they wrote: "It's the first time a metal album has occupied the #1 slot in our year-end rankings. In fact, out of albums with 15 more more reviews (excluding EPs and reissues), Sunbather is now the 7th-highest scoring album in our database, which includes releases dating back to 1999."[31] A "—" denotes the publication's list is in no particular order, and Sunbather did not rank numerically.

Publication Country Work Accolade Year Rank
Spin[32] US Sunbather 50 Best Albums of 2013 2013 22
Stereogum[33] US Sunbather The 50 Best Albums of 2013 2013 2
Rock Sound[34] UK Sunbather The 50 Best Albums of 2013 2013 13
The A.V. Club[35] US Sunbather The 23 Best Albums of 2013 2013 3
Exclaim![36] Canada Sunbather Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums of 2013 2013 4
Spin[37] US Sunbather 20 Best Metal Albums of 2013 2013 1
NPR[38] US Sunbather NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums of 2013 2013
Stereogum[39] US Sunbather The 50 Best Metal Albums of 2013 2013 1
Rolling Stone[40] US Sunbather 20 Best Metal Albums of 2013 2013 1
Pitchfork[41] US Sunbather Top 50 Albums of 2013 2013 6
Treble[42] US Sunbather 50 Best Albums of 2013 2013 1
Metacritic[31] International Sunbather The Best Albums of 2013 2013 1
Metacritic[43] International Sunbather 2013 Music Critic Top Ten Lists 2013 16
Sputnikmusic[44] US Sunbather Top 50 Albums of 2013 2013 3
AbsolutePunk[45] US Sunbather Top 30 Albums of 2013 2013 6
Decibel[46] US Sunbather Top 40 Albums of 2013 2013 11
ChartAttack[47] Canada Sunbather The Albums That Defined Indie Music in 2013 2013
Pitchfork[48] US Sunbather The Top 40 Metal Albums of 2013 2013 1
Pitchfork[49] US Sunbather The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far (2010-2014) 2014 26
PopMatters[50] US "Dream House" The 75 Best Songs of 2013 2013 25
Consequence of Sound[51] US "Dream House" Top 50 Songs of 2013 2013 18
Rolling Stone[52] US "Dream House" 100 Best Songs of 2013 2013 92
Pitchfork[53] US "Dream House" The Top 100 Tracks of 2013 2013 9
ChartAttack[54] Canada "Sunbather" 50 Best Songs Of 2013 2013
Pitchfork[55] US cover art The Top 25 Album Covers of 2013 2013

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at No. 130 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 10 in the Hard Rock Albums chart with 3,720 copies sold in its debut week in the U.S.[56] The album has sold over 30,000 copies in the U.S. as of April 2014.[57]

Track listing[edit]

All music and lyrics by Deafheaven.[2]

  1. "Dream House" – 9:15
  2. "Irresistible" – 3:13
  3. "Sunbather" – 10:17
  4. "Please Remember" – 6:26
  5. "Vertigo" – 14:37
  6. "Windows" – 4:43
  7. "The Pecan Tree" – 11:27

International bonus track[edit]

  1. "Punk Rock / Cody" (Mogwai cover) – 10:37


Sunbather personnel adapted from liner notes.[2]

  • George Clarke – vocals, piano
  • Kerry McCoy – guitars, bass guitar
  • Daniel Tracy – drums
Additional personnel
Production and recording
  • Deafheaven – production
  • Jack Shirley – recording, production, editing, mixing, mastering
Artwork and design
  • Ryan Aylsworth – photography
  • Sara Mohr – model
  • Nick Steinhardt (Touché Amoré) – art direction, design

Chart positions[edit]

Charts (2013) Peak
US Billboard 200[58] 130
US Billboard Hard Rock Albums[59] 10
US Billboard Heatseekers[60] 2
US Billboard Independent Albums[61] 23
US Billboard Top Rock Albums[62] 40
US Billboard Tastemaker Albums[63] 18


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External links[edit]