The essence of Delta Spirit once appeared to be twangy Southern rock dressed in brass-tinged guitar riffs and trashcan-lid drumming. This set the band apart but also left them dwelling precariously within a genre they didn't feel suited them. They became a band from Southern California that interestingly blended old-folk and alternative-rock, generating something new and creating a sound perfect for lovers of music from artists ranging from Janis Joplin to Cold War Kids. Now, Delta Spirit is inexorably breaking away from their supposed root-influenced sound and heading toward re-establishment-- and by self-titling their third studio album, they're really hammering this point home. It's a new Delta Spirit.
The band has replaced the organic sound of birds chirping and trash-can smashing with synthesizers, something that the pre-Delta fans might snark at and criticize. You won't find any "Streetwalker" types on Delta Spirit, nor will you find any "People C'mon" duplicates. What you will find is Matt Vasquez staying true to his lyricism. His wailing, nearly haunting vocals, seem to rest well in this new home, too. But, the truth is, Vasquez's voice doesn't seem like it should make sense in any set genre, and at the same time, it seems awkwardly fitting for everything. It's so pleasantly unique and incomparable that to knock its newfound presence on this sun-rock album would be unfair.
The first track, "Empty House," seems like a subtle retreat from their last LP, but the second track, "Tear It Up," proves they're flirting with a brand new style, sprinkled with lyrical simplicity and synthy guitar riffs. Delta still hasn't lost that trademark drumbeat-- you'll find it on every song on this album. But something else you'll find are surefire wins and some valid, if occasionally fallible, attempts to create something new and different.
What people will continue to criticize is a band transitioning from one sound to another. What unavoidably seems more appealing to the masses is what will be endlessly dissected by the music authorities. Delta Spirit has established a loyal fan base and has been credited for their talent since their first EP release in 2006. The band's talent in morphing is there, the critics willingness to accept their change is not.
But Delta Spirit isn't just floating down the current of music fads. Fittingly, Delta Spirit seems to be replicating the ebb and flow of a river delta, carrying their musical style to the masses like sediment into a large body of water. The initial chemical reaction may have been positive for Delta Spirit, as they drifted down a seemingly unscathed path, landing in a bath of celebration. Now, they're floating in a sea of music that is different-- "Idaho," seems to fall into the 'exhausted song concept' territory-- but, once you listen to their third track, "California," you'll realize that this self-titled album isn't even close to forgettable. It's the beginning of a new era for this band, and they may be turning the tide.