It’s been four years since Delta Spirit’s debut album, Ode to Sunshine, dropped in 2008. But now, Matt Vasquez and his crew of three have come back with a rip-roaring self-titled third studio album. And Delta Spirit doesn’t pull its punches concerning the sound they’re trying to achieve and audience to whom they’re appealing. I daresay it’s an overzealous effort by the band: rather its an excited ambition that fuels their musical souls, and rightfully so.
Delta Spirit began in humility. It was an honest, Americana rock sound that twanged and whirred its way into the hearts of critics and fans alike. Despite the oddities of their performances, their strange quirks and mannerisms (including a trashcan beat) somehow managed to mesh. And it was because Delta Spirit was a band so inherently tied in to their native roots, that it was impossible not to fall in love with them.
But with this third album, Delta Spirit shows a conviction in their departure from that sound. Gone is the fun, the unpredictable and the “spirit.” What is left with now in this self-titled album is something that simply sounds…hollow.
Let’s say that it was their hopes of breaking the system. It’s accepted that once you record an astounding debut album, you go back and refine that sound for the next two follow-ups. But Matt Vasquez wanted more, and Delta Spirit wanted to do better. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that we believed that “they could do better.” But in result, we’re left disappointed by this self-hype. And what we have with Delta Spirit is a loss of sound, and subsequently, a loss of that heartfelt sentiment.
The entire album starts off kicking. “Empty House,” “Tear It Up,” “California” and “Idaho” are so quick, so infused with little rock but so much roll that they all seem to overlap onto one another. Nevertheless, “California,” their first single off of this self-titled album, is an absolute favorite of mine. And it’s not a surprise that the only song that alludes back towards their humble beginnings stands as the strongest of the album. However, another gem would be the ironically labeled “Money Saves.” It’s another fast paced, shout matching song that parallels the nostalgic atmosphere of Delta Spirit’s previous albums. It’s simple. It’s energetic, and it’s an exhibit of the fun these guys can have when hitting all the right notes.
Nevertheless, these two songs are not enough to revive the noble, yet hollow attempts of the album. All the songs, slow or fast, seem polished to the point of blatant manufacturing. It’s almost difficult to hear because they’ve done a great job at wiping away any slew of raw emotion or unmediated energy. Instead, all of “that” is simply condescended down to a palatable version for the masses, carefully formulated to fit the mold of stadium rock.
So, I blame it all on the ambition. I love this band. I love their songs, but Delta Spirit has me pining already for the good ‘ol days of their trash can hitting nonsense. While it seems that the album will have a 50/50 audience between those that love it or hate it. Here I am, silently wishing to cross over to the other side, jumping, and pounding my heart out to the songs of these bumpily evolving musicians.