April 16, 2024

DEER TICK – ‘EMOTIONAL CONTRACTS’ – “an emotional truth in each of the songs and performances here”

ATO RECORDS 16 June 2023

A near-perfect example of timeless Americana. Drawing directly on the lineage spawned by The Band, the piano drives a series of lyrical belters, under chopping and twining guitars. There’s something classic about the sound of the opener, ‘If I Try To Leave’ and ‘Forgiving Ties’ owes a debt to seventies Rolling Stones, fusing pop sensibilities with rock before the chorus’ rinky-tink sound stamps individuality on the whole.

They’ve not been busy and this is the first release since 2017, a quarter of their twenty-year career. There is a leap in maturity, with songs being more collaborative this time (John McCauley has been almost exclusive songwriter to now) and the subject matter has taken a twist towards a sense of tempus fugit and hints of mortality. Rather than the love songs of a young band, songs like ‘My Ship’ communicate the feeling of bumping into someone from the past and the emotions that drags up; all the roads untravelled. ‘A Light Can Go Out In The Heart’ is full of middle-aged regret and ‘The Real Thing’ the pains of depression. If that sounds a little sad, it’s a wise sort of beauty, stories of a survivor and powerful, particularly with the right guitar line and a touch of organ behind.

Ultimately, the enduring charm of the music is a sense of consciously under-performing; of being ragged but right. It’s a smokescreen – this has been demoed and rehearsed till spot on before a live run-through to record. Whatever; it works. Drawn from twenty songs to the final ten, there’s no dead weight in the set. Dennis Ryan says: “The fact that we’d spent so much time with these songs allowed us to be really free once we got into the studio. No one was overthinking anything”.

Dave Fridmann, ex-Mercury Rev, has turned in his personal touch as producer, with an open, honest sound to the album, one that keeps a line to the emotional heart of these songs and, with ballads like ‘Running From Love’, that’s ideal. In some ways, this should be just another Americana band, peddling songs and sounds others have previously covered, yet there is an emotional truth in each of the songs and performances here – musically and lyrically. Simple and not treading new ground, still these grow and grow on the ears, becoming an expression of personal and universal truths. A seriously catchy album.

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