Bradford Cox is often seen as the brilliant mastermind behind Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. The amount of music he’s released in the last few years has been astounding, with seven full length records and a couple EPs since 2007. Worst of all, nearly every single bit of it has been very, very good. You could say he’s been putting his Deerhunter bandmates to shame. Most people couldn’t even tell you the names of the other three guys in Deerhunter. Yet that band very much remains a collaborative effort, and it’s likely the loss of one of them would be felt in subsequent records. One person that isn’t taking his role in Deerhunter lying down is guitarist Lockett Pundt, who has done a nice job establishing the fuzzier and more psychedelic elements of Deerhunter’s sound. He maintains his own solo project Lotus Plaza. The Floodlight Collective was the first Lotus Plaza full length, released in 2009 to what could best be described as polite applause. To put it another way, the album struggled to break free from the ambient, shoegaze-laden haze it maintained, drifting by in a nice but unremarkable fashion. Lotus Plaza’s second long player Spooky Action at a Distance seeks to change how the project is perceived a bit by moving away from amorphous blobs of ambient noise and placing an emphasis on more traditional songwriting and arrangements. That’s not to call the album conventional or an easy listen, but it has more easily definable boundaries and a few stand out moments. Virtually every song is propulsive and swirling in that good, psych-pop sort of way that Deerhunter has been doing with relative ease for years now. Lotus Plaza is denser and more shoegaze-inspired, though it’s difficult to describe the album as buried in guitar fuzz in a My Bloody Valentine sort of way. Pundt’s vocals are strikingly up-front and clear, and the melodies maintain strict, often looped patterns that really stick with you after awhile. After the drifting and out of place “Untitled” intro, the drum roll of “Strangers” sucks you in and the guitar gymnastics keeps you there. The percussion base on “Out of Touch” has quite the Animal Collective vibe to it in the best sort of way, and “Remember Our Days” holds this jangly slacker element to it reminiscent of Pavement filtered through psychedelic glasses. It’s good to hear some acoustic guitars used on “Dusty Rhodes” and closer “Black Buzz”, both of which provide necessary moments of calm amid the fray. Even a long number like the 6.5 minute “Jet Out of the Tundra” skates by and feels much shorter than it is as Pundt keeps adding more elements to the mix without disturbing the overall melody. The entire record actually does a nice job of cruising along without any detours into the staid and boring. You may not fully grasp the subtle nature of Spooky Action at a Distance the first or second time around listening through it, but a closer focus on each song reveals gems you probably didn’t notice originally. Sometimes the best albums are ones that sneak up on you. This is one of those.