Thursday, September 11, 2014

Delta Spirit Gets Into The Wide

Delta Spirit
San Diego indie pop-rockers Delta Spirit is often on the radar, especially in reference to Mathew Vasquez when he teamed up with Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and John McCauley (Deer Tick) to briefly form Middle Brother. Vasquez (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano, drums) is a versatile singer-songwriter who has consistently led the band in their measured sun-drenched indie light.

Frankly, it might have been this lightness that kept the band on the radar but out of the reviews. While their third studio album marked the band's transition from pop to more rootsy rock, there weren't enough standout songs on the self-titled album to stick. This isn't the case with Into The Wide.

Delta Spirit lays down its best studio album outside California.

According to the band, they spent a year writing the follow up to their last album in a "flood-ruined, cave-like, rat-colonized room" in Brooklyn. The result was surrendering sun-drenched poppiness in favor of a moodier, more mature indie rocker that producer Bend Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective) helped them breathe new life into.

There is considerably more energy, reflection, angst, and the promise of some rollicking live shows. Sure, the album does occasionally sink into a set of methodical plodders, but those moments are considerably few and far between, making for a more electric album with several near-epic songs.

Event the album opener Push It introduces Delta Spirit as a seasoned, slightly brooding rock band. In it, Vasquez showcases his increasingly grizzly but warmly welcoming voice. It is emotive, beautiful, and deliberately wrought. It invites hardship, knowing the weight of everything makes it stronger.

After getting your attention, Delta Spirit wastes no time punching up the pace with From Now On. Set on the pristine prairies of Colorado, the video directed by Andrew Bruntel captures the vulnerability and triumph that mark our relationships with people, places, and animals.

When followed by the inspiring redemption track Live On, Delta Spirit manages to make the case that Into The Wide is nothing less than their best album. Vasquez, along with Kelly Winrich (multi-instrumentalist), Jonathan Jameson (bass, drums, vocals), and Brandon Young (drums) have clearly clicked after playing together for a decade. William McLaren (guitar), who joined in 2011, truly completes the band.

It isn't until the fourth track that there is any cause to pause, mostly because Take Shelter sounds more like a holdover than anything preceding it. It happens several times toward the middle, limiting the standouts to the seep-and-sweep Hold My End Up, offset title track Into The Wide, and lively Language Of The Dead.

Toward the bottom, The Wreck makes for a solid closer and (Interlude) is a sprightly, short instrumental. But the real standout of the bunch is Patriarch, a song about a mentally fractured girl who goes looking for God in the wide open wildness of Yosemite. Although the song takes a stab at mistaken faith, it is the intimacy, urgency, and heartbreak that makes it memorable.

The same can be said about the album too. If Delta Spirit has succeeded at anything on this album, it's in their ability to create a dramatically wide open sound while still weaving in hooks to make it feel intimate and personal. And that is the way it is in the wide. Little things happen on a bigger-than-life stage.

Into The Wide By Delta Spirit Kicks Up 6.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Start with the first three tracks and then pick up with Patriarch before cherry picking tracks like Hold My End Up and Language Of The Dead. The instrumental is good bet too, especially anyone who enjoys picking up a sound bite now and again. But overall, no one is wrong to go with this album. It succeeds in accomplishing what the band hoped to do two years ago — shake off old stylistic labels.

Into the Wide by Delta Spirit can be found on Amazon or downloaded from iTunes. You can also find Into The Wide by Delta Spirit at Barnes & Noble. For upcoming tours, visit them on Facebook.
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