Album Review: Deep Sea Diver – Secrets

Former Shins and Yeah Yeah Yeahs touring member continues to explore new depths




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How deep must one go to officially be deep sea diving? Thirty meters, according to Wikipedia. The task itself can be recreational but requires strenuous training and discipline to enjoy the underwater world without harm. While their Seattle environs might not necessarily mean lots of actual deep sea diving, Deep Sea Diver indulge their namesake more in spirit. Frontwoman Jessica Dobson built her chops touring with The Shins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Beck. Her first full-length, 2012’s History Speaks, and 2014 EP Always Waiting brimmed with beautiful heartbreak, longing, and vulnerability. They were also training ground for the band, the first 30 meters. On Secrets, Dobson and Deep Sea Diver reach new depths.

Dobson is part of a long line of powerful female musicians making rock that shreds, yet is complicated, even intellectualized. Heck, the current Queen of Rock — St. Vincent’s Annie Clark — would likely be proud of the work Dobson does here. The breadth of Secrets solidifies Dobson’s standing alongside her contemporaries — diverse but cohesive, sporting powerful rock ballads as well as straight pop songs. It’s a completely addictive album full of grit and control.

“Creatures of Comfort” is a prime example of Secrets‘ beauty and brawn. Bassist Garrett Gue, guitarist Elliot Jackson, and drummer Peter Mansen create a powerful whirlpool, while Dobson’s vocals range from emotive shout to beguiling whisper, wiggling her way into the mind for an unforgettable hook. There’s a strange darkness to Dobson and Jackson’s sparkling guitar riffs, a duality that demands repeat listens.

Other highlights include the cool, swaggering “Wide Awake” and the title track, full of intricate guitar work. The former has its share of impressive guitar as well, morphing effortlessly from hook lead to background atmosphere, even exploding into noise at the climax alongside Dobson’s authoritative voice. “Remember, remember, remember your first love,” Dobson begs. “Secrets”, meanwhile, demonstrates the prototypical Deep Sea Diver arc: a slow, yet enjoyable build dotted with engaging, emotional moments. There is never a question of how one should feel when listening to any of these tracks.

Whether its a grand trek or an intimate moment, Deep Sea Diver boldly adventure into the unknown on Secrets. It’s easy to imagine an actual dive mimicking the effects of this record. You begin with excitement, maybe anxiety. That builds as you start to sink. But only once the desired depth is reached can you truly take in the sights — at this point, wonder and contentment take over. Much the same as the arc of the album, Dobson captures the fear and excitement of falling in or out of love and the inebriating effect of getting completely and totally swept up in something. It’s a wonder that an album can drive home those feelings over its entire arc, as well as in miniature on each song.

Essential Tracks: “Creatures of Comfort”, “Wide Awake”, and “Secrets”