When Randolph Chabot, the 22-year-old auteur behind Deastro, is asked about the title of his new album, he recounts a dream about a prince, a kingdom, an evil King of Darkness, and a search for the mythical â€œMoondagger,â€ the bearer of which wields ultimate power. And while Moondagger, Deastroâ€™s astonishing new album, does contain traces of that dreamâ€“in all of its bittersweet, fantasy-novel gloryâ€“the record itself is infinitely more down-to-earth, containing the sort of unrelentingly earnest, inspirational pop music that could only come from a kid weaned on fiction but living desperately, joyously in the here-and-now.
Moondagger expands upon the positive electro-pop of Keepers â€“ Deastroâ€™s home-recorded opus from 2008 â€“ with the addition of a full band. Thankfully, the mercurial, prolific Chabot still seems blissfully unaware of his musicâ€™s genreless-ness. Thick, atmospheric production obscures bright, starry-eyed melodies; ecstatic synth squiggles dance around new-wave beats on songs about Nordics, toxic crusaders, and geometric shapes; arrangement ideas bounce off one another within ambitious song structures that swerve left, then right, then left again.
And yet underneath all of their seeming irreverence, Deastroâ€™s songs are breathtakingly down-to-earth â€“ melodic slices of synth-led experimental pop whose energy builds with each iteration of the chorus, hitting emotional peak after emotional peak until they collapse in a heap. The album-opening â€œBiopheliaâ€ can barely contain its heart-in-throat urgency, Chabotâ€™s rapid-fire delivery slicing through layers of shoegaze-y ambience; â€œVermillion Plaza,â€ plucky synth arpeggios ricochet off cavernous echo-chamber walls, Chabot pleads for human contact, asking â€œwould you be my son, â€˜cause of all of mine have died?â€
Moondagger hums with Chabotâ€™s faith in the goodness of his family and friends (â€œPeople are so amazing that I canâ€™t help but write about what makes them who they are,â€ Chabot says), and yet, thereâ€™s a lurking sense that the optimistâ€™s fight is never over. The title of Moondaggerâ€™s centerpiece, â€œDaniel Johnston Was Stabbed in the Heart with the Moondagger by the King of Darkness and His Ghost Is Writing this Song as a Warning to All of Us,â€ says it all: Among all the Beach Boys backing vocals and keyboard confetti-curliques, thereâ€™s an eternal battle raging; with Deastro, Randolph Chabot is out to win the war for the forces of good.