Delta Spirit gelled as a band on the streets of San Diego. The band’s sound was gritty and spontaneous, dodging easy description as it zig-zagged between blues riffs, folky harmonies, and indie rock energy. That unpredictability was showcased on its first two albums, keeping Delta Spirit from being easily defined. For its third full-length release the band joins forces with producer Chris Coady, best known for his work with Santigold, TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Clearly Delta Spirit isn’t done exploring new facets of their music. Songwriter and singer Matthew Vasquez describes Delta Spirit, the album, as “the sound that we’ve been looking for, that we’ve been growing into,” adding, “that’s why it’s a self-titled record, so we could connect our identity with the album.”
Opening with “Empty House” the band presents an urgency that permeates the rest of the album. There is also a more muscular sound to the guitar work on the album. Following Delta Spirits last album History From Below, guitarist Sean Walker left the band and was replaced with Will McLaren who proves to be a virtuoso player. His guitar rings out in “Tear It Up” and churns through “Otherwise,” and adds a new-wave element to the repertoire that wasn’t present on earlier recordings. Much of that credit also goes to producer Coady’s oversight. Electronic touches lift Vasquez’s melodies out of the mix and into the spotlight. “Tellin’ the Mind” opens with Vasquez’s electronically manipulated tongue twirls and syncopated percussion and becomes a pounding force. Vasquez’s vocals take on a Johnny Lydon petulance as he shouts out his cryptic lyrics. This is definitely new territory for the band.
Matthew Vasquez’s voice is raspy and ragged, a perfect fit for songs that are designed to be catchy but not pretty, but he pushes beyond the perimeters of songs built on blues or folk traditions. This is a rock album, no doubt about it. Even when the pace slows on “Time Bomb” the volume remains high and the pulsing techno aspects of the album are defined. “Home” is as close to a ballad as Delta Spirit gets. The focus is on Vasquez’s vocals, accompanied by electric guitar and synthesizer. “Into the Darkness” begins quietly enough with bell chimes then builds to crescendo with shimmering guitars that play off the bells.
With its revved up production Delta Spirit should bring the band to a wider audience. Fortunately the quality of the music is stronger than anything the band has produced before making for an auspicious introduction for new listeners.
---Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Host