Posted May 26, 2022
On blue skies, Dehd go full Scottish – the indie rock trio from Chicago seem to draw major influences from the twee rock of the Vaselines, the doo-wop styles of Jesus and Mary Chain and the nostalgic yapping of Primal Scream. Which is to say, Dehd covers so much sonic and creative ground on their fourth album that you could essentially take any Western country’s music scene and do the exact same thing.
Recorded in the same studio as their famous 2020 LP, devotional flower, Dehd have built an album that stays true to their tattered plan. But this time around, they’re dusting off some corners while proudly displaying an affinity with their craft.
During their 33-minute sprint through the album’s 13 tracks, the trio manage to elevate every mood and mode. “Control” is more dramatic, “Waterfall” is more dynamic, and “No Difference” is more dynamic than anything they’ve done before. On the heart-pounding duets of “Memories” and “Empty in My Mind,” guitarist Jason Balla and bassist Emily Kempf keep their vocal deliveries tempered, carrying a reverberating panache under a shroud of nuance and never standing out as passionate – du least, not before the edgy and adventurous penultimate track, “Stars.”
The instrumentation accompanying songs like the sashaying “Bad Love” and the dreamy poppy “Palomino” is always impeccably dispersed and sparse, with Eric McGrady delivering some of the most beautifully minimal drumbeats this side of Meg White. Like their last album, Balla’s fine strumming and Kempf’s two-fingered bass playing are accentuated by ingenious arrangements and truly left-wing vocal styles.
The striking “Clear” builds an unforgettable hook from the collapse of a two-part anti-harmony, while closer “No Difference” finds Balla playing with the timing, timbre, tone and tonality of the song in less than two heart-pounding minutes. On numbers like the aptly titled “Bop” and the hard-hitting “Dream On,” both singers drop the words altogether, sighing and scattering over McGrady’s rugged motorized beats.
Moving from the smaller Fire Talk label to Fat Possum, Dehd had unprecedented access to the studio throughout the album writing process. Produced by Balla himself, the trio was thus able to flesh out their ideas more effectively, using the freedom offered by these new resources to increase their writing tenfold.
With blue skies, the production is sharper, the melodies are crisper, the moods are deeper, and Dehd looks set to take on the world of indie rock – from Glasgow to Chicago, and everywhere in between. (Big opossum)