ALBUM PREVIEW: Deer Tick ‘Vol.1’ & Deer Tick ‘Vol 2’

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Monday Sep 4, 2017 Under Album Review, Alternative, Americana, Indie

Review by Chloe Gynne.

Deer Tick’s music has always floated somewhere between country-folk and indie-rock. Flirting with the two harmoniously on 2013’s ‘Negativity’, they return now with a double album, which allows them to separate their two main influences and explore the exactness of each genre.

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‘Vol. 1’ is, undoubtedly, the folk record. Opener ‘Sea Of Clouds’ isn’t a huge change from what we’ve heard from the band before, with its airy acoustic guitar and slow and steady rhythm, but it wins bonus points in the fact that its warm sound is exactly as autumnal as one would hope from a September release.

Vol 1: Sea of Clouds

‘Card House’ plods along seamlessly too, with the light-hearted sensibility of The Faces, had their frontman been blessed with a voice as gruff and grounded as John J. McCauley.

However, McCauley’s voice is such a dominant force across this record that it has a tendency to subdue the sound of everything around it. ‘Hope Is Big’, for example, sees such glorious vocal control, flitting from soft deliberation in the verses to all consuming in the chorus, but its light harmonies and delightful guitar line are entirely lost in comparison.

It is when the instrumentation is purposefully muted, then, that ‘Vol. 1’ excels. ‘Rejection’ is an understated, simplistic ditty, with a quiet guitar line that bounces back and forth, exposing its lyrics, a call to help someone in need. It’s so full of heart that it sounds like it might just do the trick.

The blasting noise of ‘Vol.2’ opener ‘Don’t Hurt’ is stark in comparison to what has come before it, but for all the right reasons. A stomping rhythm and the clang of electric guitars gives the second album a momentum the first never managed to find.

‘Look How Clean I Am’ harks back to the late noughties, a minimal slacker-rock anthem with an off-kilter verse structure that Courtney Barnett would be proud of. Garage rock runs through ‘Sloppy’, which is anything but that. It is an album highlight and cements ‘Vol.2’ as the better listen of the two offerings.

Vol 2 – It’s A Whale

‘Pulse’, which was written in the wake of the 2016 Orlando shooting, is a wordless track, for an event that left us all speechless. The instrumental, for all of its swooping major keys, has a deeper, bittersweet aftertone and tells a story that needs no narration. Musically, it allows a shining moment for the rest of the band, which is much needed.

For all of the contrast across these two records, one thing remains: the distinctive voice of McCauley. On ‘Vol.2’, this is perfection- his sheer vocal volume lends itself well to shoutalong punk ditties- but ‘Vol.1’ fails to find an equilibrium between its vocal tracks and everything else that Deer Tick has to offer.  It’s interesting, then, that the band have opted to keep the two styles separate on this release, rather than merging the best of both into one record.

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It’s been four years since Deer Tick’s last release Negativity, and devotees have grown restless. It wasn’t that the band – made up of McCauley, guitarist Ian O’Neil, drummer Dennis Ryan, and bassist Christopher Ryan – was withholding information. They just weren’t sure they had anything more to share. “It wasn’t anything that we actually talked about,” McCauley says. “We never said, ‘Hey, we should take a break,’ or ‘Maybe this isn’t working anymore.’ We just took some time off. We’d just done our 10-year anniversary shows, and I had a kid like two weeks later.” He pauses before adding with a hint of a laugh, “We just kind of got comfortable away from each other.”

Deer Tick ‘Vol 1’ and Deer Tick ‘Vol 2’ are released on 15th September 2017 via Partisan Records.

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