COLUMN: Why “Agoraphobia” by Deerhunter is the best song ever written


Ryan Meyer

Ryan Meyer, Columnist

I’ve had a song on repeat for what feels like an eternity now. I’m referring to Deerhunter’s “Agoraphobia,” a song that comes off as a traditional 2000s indie rock song but has come to represent the peak of melody for me.

It’s the second track on Deerhunter’s second album, “Microcastle,” and is preceded by “Cover Me Slowly,” which in both its title and its music acts as a segue into “Agoraphobia.” It’s an explosive introduction to the record and swells in potential homage to the Flaming Lips.

“Agoraphobia” is really the only Deerhunter song I love right now. There will always be time to dive deeper into their catalogue, but it might be a while until I can clear the hurdle that is this track.

Most of the song is traditional indie rock in its primary instrumentation of two guitars, bass and drums. That is, until the bridge of the song, when a perfectly-pitched synthesizer enters the mix and matches the highest notes of the lead guitar. The synthesizer is then mirrored by a fuzzed-out guitar riff playing what seem to be the same notes.

Synths are not at all uncommon in the indie rock universe, but the way this one is used is not one of a band drawing from the Cars or Duran Duran, yet rather to add texture to the outro of the song.

The guitars have the sweetest tone, both the rhythm guitar strumming simple barre chords and the lead picking gentle arpeggios. The rhythm section does a nice job of reclining and matching the energy of the track, giving it a sense of direction without sending it careening off the tracks.

Lyrically, this song is inspired by an advertisement Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox came across about a boy who wanted to be buried alive and barely kept from dying. Whatever this did to inspire him, it worked, because “Agoraphobia” contains quite the poetic line:

“And after some time/ I know I would go blind/ But seeing only binds/ the vision to the eye.” I love this line because it shows Cox acknowledging the effects of complete solitude that could be perceived as positive. Although he’d lose his vision, he recognizes that vision itself stretches beyond the naked eye.

I think this song just represents beauty, primarily in the musical sense. It’s verse/chorus/verse and it doesn’t try to act as anything else. It packs a lot of melodic punch into just under three and a half minutes. There’s no shredding guitar solos, just neatly picked leads and one fuzzed out line that serves as a way to carry the listener into the next track, “Never Stops.”

When people discuss the pillars of 2000s alternative rock, this song isn’t mentioned as much when stacked against genre mainstays like the Strokes or Modest Mouse. But it should be.

Ryan Meyer is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 581-2812.