When an album has no skips in the first four songs I'm usually a fan by then but to go throughout and have that same feeling until the end of an album it doesn't happen often for me, this was one of them. Top 5 of 2020 for sure.
Favorite track: Haha.
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“I want nothing more than to be a loner,” Emily Kempf sings early on Flower of Devotion, the new album by Chicago trio Dehd. It’s a startling admission coming from a songwriter who, just a year ago on Dehd’s critically acclaimed Water, wrote eloquently about the joys and pains — more than anything, the necessity — of love, compassion, and companionship. But then, “admission” isn’t really the right word here, given the stridency of Kempf’s tone. “Loner” is a declaration.
The record ups the ante on Dehd’s sound & filters in just enough polish to bring out the shining and melancholy undertones in Jason Balla and Emily Kempf’s songwriting, even as it captures them at their most strident. Balla’s guitar lines at times flirt with ticklish cosmic country, while at others they reflect the dark marble sounds of Broadcast. Kempf, meanwhile, establishes herself as a singer of incredible expressive range, pinching into a high lonesome wail, letting loose a chirping “ooh!,” pushing her voice below its breaking point and letting it swing down there. When she and Balla bounce descending counter-melodies off one another over McGrady’s one-two thumps, or skitter off over a programmed drum pad, they sound like The B-52s shaking off heartache.
What makes Flower of Devotion so impressive is how its creation seems to have strengthened its creators, both as individuals and as a unit, even as they’ve stared down their own limitations. It’s also striking just how much fun they seem to be having in the process. “It’s okay to be lighthearted in the face of despair,” Kempf says. It’s a theme that runs through the album, from the opening back-and-forth build of “Desire” to the click-clacking chorus of “Haha,” which finds them deflating their own history. Flower of Devotion was recorded in April and August of 2019 in Chicago. It will be released on Fire Talk Records on July 17th 2020.
released July 17, 2020
Recorded by Jason Balla & Dehd
Mixed by Dave Vettraino
Mastered by Greg Obis at Chicago Mastering
supported by 295 fans who also own “Flower Of Devotion”
This reminds me of the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, which is where I hope it might lead some yet to experience the free-spirited authenticity of those refugees from the big smoke.
Big Thief sound more contemporary than the loose country-folk of the Creekdippers, but IMO it's Big Thief's countrified tunes that give this album it's cohesion. I hope they do travel further along this road and record America's next great album. They have the talent. tideracer