For a country bent on great festivals and live music, Delta Spirit have mysteriously remained unknown in Australia. Our only taste of them was when they supported Ben Kweller around the country on the back of 2010’s sublime History From Below.
Coupling driving rhythms with Matt Vasquez’s devastating vocal growl and spiritual lyrics, that album proved a perfect mix of alt-country and indie rock. Their subsequent slew of festival appearances grew the San Diego quintet’s popularity in the U.S.
With this newfound popularity, the five-piece relocated from their native West Coast, moving from San Diego to Brooklyn and teamed up with indie-producer maestro Chris Coady to help record their definitive, self-titled third album.
Unfortunately, Delta Spirit – prepped to be the band’s great self-assertion – weighs too heavily on the band’s indie leanings, and ditches the band’s folk/country element; and it was the balance between the two which made History From Below such a rewarding listen.
‘Empty House’ is a promising start, surging with energy while Vasquez’s voice cracks and burns through lines of resentment and regret. But from there things get boring,
‘Tear it Up’ has some creative moments; the finger-picked guitar in the bridge is enticing, but the repetitive group vocals of the chorus are tired and uninteresting. Lead single ‘California’ is where things get really tricky. Full of synths and electronic drums, if it were an album cut from the new Killers record it might sound at home, but whatever spirit there is on this track is as far as group’s celebrated delta as one could get.
The album’s second half seems just as miscast. ‘Money Saves’ is a rollicking good time, but ‘Tellin’ the Mind’ is too silly for its own good; while ‘Otherside’ sounds like Coldplay trying to reinvent themselves as a garage band.
By the time the album’s finished, it becomes apparent that ‘Empty House’ is the only good song; and it’s tucked right at the front! No doubt Delta Spirit are going to wow audiences at next year’s Big Day Out with their phenomenal live show, here’s hoping they play more songs like ‘Bushwick Blues’ or ‘St. Francis’; instead of anything on here.
– Alastair Mattcott