Subterranean Jungle: Boombox Beach Bangers

Deer Tick – Emotional Contracts (ATO Records)

On their ninth studio album, Emotional Contracts, Deer Tick created a record unlike any in their catalog, while retaining their signature elements. It’s really not an easy trick to pull off – experimenting in the lab with new chemicals while still managing to make a record that sounds like a Deer Tick record. The other thing that struck me about Emotional Contracts is it feels like the most collaborative Deer Tick album to date. The vocals duties are spread out with six songs from guitarist John McCauley, three from guitarist Ian O’Neil, and one from drummer Dennis Ryan. Bassist Chris Ryan is the glue, with Dennis Ryan, that holds it all together. 

O’Neil and Ryan co-wrote “Forgiving Ties,” which features additional vocals from McCauley playing the protagonist’s “inner voice” shining a light on what’s really happening in the story. The heat off Ryan’s “Running From Love” crackles through like smoldering beauty. On “My Ship,” McCauley sings “I’ve been waiting for my ship, yours left quick, without a glance, not a word, and I know you won’t return.” That hits on the contemplative themes found running throughout Emotional Contracts. The soul harmonies in the choruses on “Once in a Lifetime” and O’Neil’s ripping “Disgrace” break new ground on Deer Tick’s sonic palette without sounding forced. “Grey Matter” has an upbeat revival, don’t-miss-the-train energy because, “you never know if it could be your last.” 

Emotional Contracts ends with two of the most passionate vocal performances the band has ever given in O’Neil’s “A Light Can Go out in the Heart” and McCauley’s “The Real Thing.” The former is a meditative reflection on loss, while the latter is a searing shot of struggle. McCauley didn’t want the closing, nine-minute “The Real Thing” on the record because he deemed it too personal. The straight forward structure of “The Real Thing” allows McCauley to give an untethered, goosebump-inducing vocal performance. Emotional Contracts may be the best Deer Tick album to date. Even if it isn’t, it’s up there. That’s an unprecedented achievement for any band going on their ninth album.  

Deer Tick will play the Ocean Mist June 15 – 17.

Rafay Rashid – Kitchen Weapons (Almost Ready Records)

Ravi Shavi frontmen’s Rafay Rashid has released his first solo album, Kitchen Weapons. Every Ravi Shavi album is kind of different, so it’s no surprise that Kitchen Weapons doesn’t sound like any of Rashid’s previous work. The album was produced by Dennis Ryan of Deer Tick and features guest appearances from all the other members of Deer Tick and Liz Isenberg (The Huntress and Holder of Hands) who guests on “Monogamy.” I dig the lounge-like feel of “Lizards and Iguanas.” The ballad “Pain Palace” is rich in texture with Rashid’s vocals floating gracefully over. “Silver Hairs” reminds me of a post-modern take on the latter day Beatles. “City of Love” has an early millennium alternative, cut-it-up-on-the-dance-floor groove. “You From Me” is another stirring ballad that mixes in Prince and jazz grooves. 

Rafay Rashid will play the Ocean Mist June 15 -17. The official release show for Kitchen Weapons goes down at Machines with Magnets on July 21, with performances by Rafay Rashid, NOVA ONE, and EDT. 

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