Dehd's Ambitious Rock Music Soars Gracefully on 'Blue Skies'
Published: May 26, 2022
As originally published by Daniel Sylvester on Exclaim!
On Blue Skies
go full Scottish — the Chicago indie rock trio seem to draw major influences from the twee rock of the Vaselines, the doo-wop stylings of the Jesus and Mary Chain and the nostalgic yelp of Primal Scream. Which is to say that Dehd cover so much sonic and creative ground across their fourth full-length that you could basically take any Western country's music scene and make the exact same case.
Recorded in the same studio as their celebrated 2020 LP, Flower of Devotion
, Dehd have constructed an album that remains confidently true to their ragged blueprint. But this time around, they're dusting out some of the corners while proudly displaying a tossed-off affinity to their craft.
During their 33-minute sprint through the album's 13 tracks, the three-piece manage to heighten every mood and mode. "Control" is more dramatic, "Waterfall" is more dynamic and "No Difference" is more buoyant than anything they've done previously. On the pulsating duets of "Memories" and "Empty in My Mind," guitarist Jason Balla and bassist Emily Kempf keep their vocal deliveries tempered, transporting reverberating panache under a shroud of nuance and never coming off like keeners — at least, not until the nervy and adventurous penultimate track, "Stars."
The instrumentation accompanying songs like the sashaying "Bad Love" and the dream-poppy "Palomino" are still impeccably scattershot and sparse, with Eric McGrady delivering some of the most beautifully minimal drumbeats this side of Meg White. Similarly to their last LP, Balla's thin strumming and Kempf's two-finger bass-playing are accented by resourceful arrangements and truly left-field vocal stylings.
The striking "Clear" builds an unforgettable hook out of the collapse of a two-part anti-harmony, while closer "No Difference" finds Balla messing with the song's timing, timbre, tone and key in less than two thrilling minutes. On numbers like the aptly titled "Bop" and the thumping "Dream On," the two vocalists abandon words altogether, sighing and scatting overtop McGrady's sturdy motorik beats.
Migrating from the smaller record label Fire Talk to Fat Possum, Dehd were given unprecedented studio access throughout the album's writing process. Produced by Balla himself, the trio were consequently able to flesh out ideas more effectively, using the freedom these newfound resources afforded to improve their songwriting tenfold.
With Blue Skies
, the production is crisper, the melodies are sharper, the moods hit deeper and Dehd seem ready to conquer the indie rock world — from Glasgow to Chicago, and everywhere in between.