Music about the journey, not the destination
After a six-year hiatus, Delta Spirit is back with What Is There, a dynamic folk-rock album brimming with life and soul. The band’s members—Matthew Vasquez (vocals and guitar), William McLaren (guitar), Kelly Winrich (multi-instrumentalist), Jonathan Jameson (bass) and Brandon Young (drums)—independently explored their own musical styles during their break, masterfully blending their newfound techniques and creative processes on the album. It’s evident that the break only empowered the band to be better artists, as the range, technical skill and sheer creative imagination is enough to make What Is There the crowning jewel of Delta Spirit’s discography.
The most captivating quality of What Is There is the diversity and quality of its tracklist. Each song sounds distinctly different from the rest, and without prior knowledge, it might be difficult to figure out they’re all part of the same album. For instance, some songs like “Better Now,” open to delicate bells and shakers as synthesized keys swell between Vasquez’s soft vocals, creating a feeling reminiscent of floating in the pool on a hot summer’s day. “The Pressure,” has a similar feel, opening to a tight baseline, quick guitar riffs and light drumming, making the perfect song for a beach-day playlist. Vasquez sings “the pressure got its hooks in/ you love, can we talk to/ someone,” inviting the listener to relax to the welcoming melody.
Others are more classic rock, most notably “How Bout It,” which features an exhilarating guitar solo with splashes of piano keys accenting the wailing of the guitar, making for a standout track. “Making Sense,” blends the breezy, beachy sound with heavier rock, opening with synthesizers and bells as Vasquez exclaims “you lost your hope/ but then you found it” and another shorter acrobatic guitar solo ends the song. In “Lover’s Heart,” romantic ’80s-esque synthesizers softly play and build as Vasquez sings “my spirit is broken, but I am not dead,” as shakers and synthesized bells surge with an empowering undertone. Though the tracks may sound like different genres at times, all are tied together by the same motif of releasing pressure and accepting hope in its place, focusing on the journey rather than the destination.
The album also features more folk songs than regular fans of Delta Spirit may be used to, but they definitely have the most depth to them compared to any other songs on the album. In “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” an acoustic guitar slowly plays alone as Vasquez sings “Can you ever forgive me/ for not being there when you needed me,” alluding to heartbreak in the past. In “Just the Same,” Vasquez softly sings “and we could start again, maybe with a little time/ We could love each other just the same,” to the steady piano and plucks of the acoustic guitar. Both the lyrics and instrumentals are intimate, and with each strum of the guitar the listener gets closer to the feeling of grief and heartbreak.
The album ends with “What Is There,” a song that samples the sounds of wind and rain, transporting the listener to the edge of a serene forest. The feeling is cozy and warm as the guitar softly strums, a perfect song to listen to at a bonfire. Vasquez sings “The joy we found in the journey/ Never needed to get there any way/ But what is there,” calling back to the namesake of the album, putting a perfect period at the end of the sentence in the last track.
Despite having a hiatus, Delta Spirit managed to collaborate once again to create What Is There, showcasing they’ve only grown stronger during their time apart. The album has a perfect ebb and flow between the celebration of spirit and heartbreak, similar to the unpredictable ups and downs of everyday life. With a motif of experiencing the journey rather than the destination, the band perfectly underscores the endless cycle of highs and lows with their musical diversity and style to create an endlessly-playable album.