Albums of the Decade: Deakin – Sleep Cycle (Domino, 2016)

So much changes when you commit to some self-reflection, does it not? We all have our own foibles and neuroses that we carry with us through life, but recognising these aspects about ourselves helps enormously with our processing, and acceptance, of them. Things very much came to a head for me about this time last year when I collapsed into a fugue of depression and anxiety, the logical outcome of years of suppression and refusal to face my mental health. Since then I’ve taken a much more proactive approach, been through therapy, read up on the dreaded self-help spiels. All of it stuff I dismissed when I was younger, and all of it tremendously perspective-altering.

Without facing up to and vocalising my fears, concerns, failings, desires, I had accepted a life of stagnation in a sense. I had allowed these issues to rule me and hold me back, unable to move forward through the blinkers I had built up over time. It was a sharp wake-up call when the realisation came round, and I’m all the better for it.

Deakin had beaten me to it by a few years with Sleep Cycle though, this reasonably short record carving a delightfully cathartic path that expunged much of the same sentiments I held deep inside before my own dissolution. Several years overdue following a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the foundations of this record, Sleep Cycle ended up being something of a surprise release that somehow managed to live up to the hype.

Every inch of this record is suffused in self-doubt, unworthiness, anxiety, of feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness that drove its endless production delays. That uncertainty of self and the quality of the content you produce is the most dangerous toxin to an artist, a negative energy virus that embeds itself deep within thought-processes and refuses to budge unless harshly challenged. Not only does Sleep Cycle manage to oust those preoccupations in style, it also does so with Neo-Psych/Psych Pop aplomb; a seamless release that moves from tortured thought to catharsis, wrapped in delectably accessible music.

‘Cause I hold on to things that dearly need replacing

Broken time ruling pain and failed aging

Deak sings in the carefully unwinding “Just Am”, the track that perhaps outlines his insecurities most deeply on the record. It’s important to note though that the identification of the root cause is one thing but change is another, and “Just Am” also gently provides the courses of action required for progress, as above. “You’ve got to let go so you’ll grow” he sings elsewhere, jettisoning the emotional baggage holding him back.

Still, doubt is pervasive and entrenched, and segue interlude piece “Shadow Mine” lurks in the recesses as it ekes out ethereal murmurings filled with insecurity. “I wanna rise up right now/ Even though I know I’m not much” he mumbles in the dark reverb, outlining his hopes and desires but degrading himself in the same breath.

The topsy-turvy emotional rollercoaster continues in standout “Footy” as the vocals turn in to full view, the guitar chords rumbling noisily alongside wobbling synths and bold drums with impassioned fervour. Fake it til you make it as they say, because despite the concerns that trace their way through, the bombast of the presentation manages to push uncertainty aside.

All my life I have travelled in needs
Now I’ve found what I crave
You’ve got to be brave

Signs of something to cling to, reasons to strive for betterment, circumstances that prompt motivation. It’s hard not to get caught up in these dramatically hopeful energies that slowly simmer down into the boggy mires of melty “Seed Song”. Like “Shadow Mine” words disappear off through corridors of the mind, but this time all syrupy and bubbling with an aqueous vibe that smothers their intentions with hope. There is a possibility of possibilities.

It settles into the relaxed closer “Good House” that unwinds a stream of metaphorical life lessons across its poetic span, Deak’s voice softly lilting over the lazy river of acoustic instrumentation that hangs like a mist over land at dawn. The woes are moving into the past, turning to embrace aging and the promise of a blossoming future: “With each turn, delight comes alive/ Loss slipping away”.

It’s funny that as youngsters we crave adulthood and growing up, but when it arrives we desire to do nothing but revert to a simpler and more carefree time, when our lives were less complicated and our insecurities didn’t hold us back. Part of being an adult though means discovering a new emotional maturity to find ways to cope with this unsatisfying thing called “life” we’re trying to make the most of. I’m willing to bet most of us learn this lesson the hard way in one form or another, but whether you’ve already learned from yours or are still learning, Sleep Cycle will find a lot of resonance.