Album Review by Evan Mack
When Delta Spirit’s Mathew Vazquez was asked two weeks ago on NPR to explain Hurricane Sandy’s effect on their most recent masterpiece, Into The Wide, his answer was simple: “We went through the summer without AC, and when the storm hit, that was heavy.”
Indeed, the whole of Into The Wide represents an escape from a grimy circumstance. The persistent synth influence throughout and Vazquez’s characteristic yell is evidently influenced by the band’s weather-induced imprisonment.
That is not to say that this album is by any means a sorrowful one. In fact, it is anything but. Full of energized tracks, including a dynamic sequence consisting of upbeat tempos, “From Now On,” “Live On,” and “Take Shelter,” the album exemplifies the raw personality that Delta Spirit grew to embrace through their first three albums. In that sense, Delta Spirit is still the same Delta Spirit, using their sharp guitars and southern soul influences as nodal points into complex drum patterns. An agitated Vazquez at vocals, seemingly singing with more than one voice, adds to the experience.
But for all of Into The Wide’s simplicity and similarity to previous albums, it is markedly grander. The troublesome production process is readily apparent in tracks like “Hold My End Up,” where a crescendo of intensity resolves with rotund calls of “Hold my end up, I know, you said, you would.” The song describes a longing to fulfill a promise, even through chaos and evident temptation to leave it all behind: “It’s not too late to turn your back on them. What kind of friend would lead you to your death?” It is hard to look back at Vazquez’s remarks about Hurricane Sandy, and not suspect a connection between their choice lyrics and the definite aggravation present in the song.
Into The Wide offers up, what I like to call, the Delta Spirit Paradox: the ability to have a loud song through the quiet, and a quiet song through the loud. The song includes the same whimpering guitar choruses, and eerie lead vocals from Vazquez, all the while presenting a level of sincerity that no other tracks exhibit. This sincerity lasts, be it through the story of return it tells, “Back to the wide open arms of the Earth,” or the reverb and echo that rings between verses. The synchronicity between the ephemeral experiences that each song provides and the vivid stories they tell is so gripping.
When explaining exactly what it is that makes Delta Spirit so seemingly transparent throughout Into The Wide, Vazquez remarked “We always strive for an epic sound, and to try to capture what we play like live… shooting for that is always the goal.”
Vazquez’s explanation defines the success and brilliance of Into The Wide. Though the album lacks a level of versatility that Delta Spirit has exemplified in previous work (note: reference the similarity in consistent reverb and drum patterns present in Into The Wide), it is this exact trait that is so impressive about the album; the emotion is so vivid and encompassing that all repetition goes unnoticed. Even amid Vazquez’s quiet self-affirmations on “War Machine” — “War machine you can’t break me, you can’t have the world I love” — the sincerity between singer and listener is obvious.
Serving as the finale of the album, “The Wreck,” enchants the listener completely. Representing all that is strong about Into The Wide, it closes the loud album in relative silence (at least emotionally); chilling vocals, tinted by anxiety; relentless reverb and echo; a crescendo in intensity.
Into The Wide marks a shift in priority for Delta Spirit. Where their variability was a notable highlight of their previous albums, their sincerity and connection to the audience defines Into The Wide. The album invites the listener into the weather-torn studio and reveals the authenticity of the band’s music like never before.