Album Review: The Deep Vibration – Veracruz [EP]

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In today’s convoluted rock scene, it seems that either artists attempt a throwback sound influenced by the classics (Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan) or they dive into the uncharted waters of music that will turn into the genres of tomorrow (Animal Collective.) In both cases, not many can pull it off (Black Lips) and even fewer can pull it off well (Black Keys.) The Deep Vibration is no exception to that rule; they’re a bluesy four-piece rock band searching for that elusive throwback sound. That said, it’s obvious that these guys are influenced by the classics. However, the sound seems to fall right into their lap and they achieve it without coming across as trying to hard or simply imitating (Panic At The Disco), as heard in their current EP, Veracruz.

The quavering vocals offered by lead singer, Matt Campbell,  are sung through a Shure SM-57 microphone and they parallel a toddler learning to walk; strong and confident one minute while beat down and broken the next. The SM-57 is typically used to mic drums and makes for an odd choice as a vocal mic. That could explain the shudder that’s ever present in his vocals. More often than not, Campbell sings in a voice still struggling for balance. He sounds best in parts the first track, “Oklahoma City Woman Blues”, where he sings without hesitation. The second track, “Third Day of July” slows the strut established by the first song and feels like it’s a little too soon. Unfortunately, the slower pace defines the rest of the EP. “Thanks To You” attempts to revive the stride that “Third Day of July” killed. And, while they don’t completely regain their swagger, the addition of a horn section sets it apart from the rest making it one of my favorites. Alternatively, on “Tennessee Rose”, the longest and slowest track on the record, his voice comes across soft and thankfully without the quaver. For this one, the guys unleash a harmonica that introduces some odd vocal harmonies provided by country singer Gillian Welch. I’m not quite sure they fit together but on an LP, I’m sure they’ll tighten them up.

Niko Bolas who recorded the EP has also produced for Neil Young and more recently, My Morning Jacket. That could explain the similarity between “Oklahoma City Woman Blues” and Neil Young’s “Down By The River” (the Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young version is better.) Recorded in several live takes straight to 1-inch 8-track tape, the analog just adds to the nostalgic vibe. If you listen close or crank the volume, you’ll hear that distinct sound of analog, the way music should be recorded.

EP’s are usually put out for several reasons: the band can’t afford to record and press an LP, the band doesn’t have enough material for an entire record, or the band wants to find/experiment with their sound. My hope is that The Deep Vibration are just trying to find their sound by throwing five tracks at the wall and figuring out which ones stick. For me, those songs have to be “Oklahoma City Woman Blues” and “Thanks To You”. With some work, “Tennessee Rose” could be a favorite but it needs something more than a harmonica and loose vocals thrown in by a gorgeous country singer…remember we can’t see her while we’re listening. Whenever they decide to release a full-length, I hope they lean in the direction of their more upbeat songs and more horns wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.

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