The deftness with which Deerhoof stitches together saccharine twee pop, outsider rock and no-wave noise has made it the indie darling of the decade. Inhabiting a niche of sonic terrain between the iconoclastic innocence of The Shaggs and the experimental coolness of Sonic Youth, the group highlights the harmony and tension inherent in blending opposites. As its name suggests, Deerhoof embodies both the gentle demeanor of a forest creature ... and the unpredictable thrust of its feet.
Deerhoof's past three releases have blazed a trail of eccentric innovation: modern pop epics with distinctive themes. Released in 2003, Apple O' explores love -- specifically, the bond between Adam and Eve. 2004's Milk Man narrates the tale of a mythical character that whisks children away to a nightmarish world.
Keeping with that tradition, Deerhoof's latest disc, The Runners Four, also explores an overarching concept, but this time, the concept was the process. Each band member (the titular four) took an equal part in its creation. While Milk Man was laid down in a single, nine-hour session, The Runners Four took six months of intense recording sessions. While on tour, the group listened back to the completed project for the first time, then called Kill Rock Stars and asked to rework it.
Deerhoof eventually submitted The Runners Four a total of four times before feeling completely at ease with it.
Apparently, the fourth time's the charm. Critics have hailed the album as the band's finest effort to date -- no small feat, considering its 20-track length. Standouts include the infectious riffs of "O'Malley, Former Underdog," and also, "Spirit Ditties of No Tone," in which Satomi Matsuzaki's otherworldly vocals evoke a newly discovered instrument. Despite the songs' dynamic and mood shifts, the disc maintains a cohesive sound that's unmistakably Deerhoof: call-and-response guitar-voice mimicry and angular structures, tempered by sing-song vocals and moments of quiet beauty.
2006 has seen longtime member Chris Cohen depart to work full time on his project The Curtains, while the remaining trio has been working on a soundtrack for the Justin Theroux film Dedication, and completing its eighth album, Friend Opportunity. Due out in January 2007, the new disc is already attracting buzz, and Friday's audience will surely be treated to a few previews of this new chapter of the Deerhoof sound.
Deerhoof with Fog. 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 27. The Andy Warhol Museum. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $15. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org
Former underdog: Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki