Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer Days: The Album Of This Season Is The Fine New One From Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie)

I know I've been posting a lot about Dave Depper lately but his music deserves it. The anticipation for the album grew for me with each single he dropped this Spring, and now the final full-length record is here. Called Emotional Freedom Technique and out on Friday via Tender Loving Empire, the album is a fine, fine offering, full of both heart and artistry -- hence the title that plays up both "emotion" and "technique" -- spread across a clutch of tracks that effortlessly bridge the worlds of Eighties New Wave and recent indie.

I suppose, given multi-instrumentalist Dave Depper's place in Death Cab For Cutie, that a reviewer can't get around talking about band-mate Ben Gibbard's The Postal Service project when offering some thoughts on Emotional Freedom Technique. And, yes, there are some superficial similarities in approach. Still, where Gibbard's music almost seemed an ironic use of Reagan era-electronics, Depper seems more serious in his embrace of the keyboards and samples here. A track like "Lonely With You" purrs like a honky Barry White, or the sort of sound that The Human League gamely attempted when they enlisted Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to produce their album in 1986, and yet the effect is a serious one. While the tune here blatantly nods -- almost with one eyebrow raised -- to the music of those past artists, it retains a sincerity that elevates this number, like so many here, into something sublime. Elsewhere, on the bright "Anytime Anywhere", Depper goes for a direct effect that renders the tune the sort of thing that Paul Young or Hall and Oates would have composed in the Eighties, the sort of radio hit that aged better than so much from that decade. Retro to be sure, but heartfelt and less ironic than anything from the big hair days. Similarly, "Summer Days" bubbles and chimes like the best Erasure singles, the ones that crossed over from the alt charts into the periphery of the Top 40.

I've already raved to you here about the New Wave chops of "Communication", and the bright surfaces of the sublime album opener "Do You Want Love?", as well as the duet with Laura Gibson "Your Voice On The Radio", but what about the rest of the record? I can hear the questions. Is it as good? The answer is a resounding answer in the affirmative. Besides the previously-mentioned tunes, the one cut that grabbed my heart is bold album closer "Hindsight", a thing of marvelous beauty and escalating waves of emotion. The tune is so sweet, so warm in an un-ironic way, that I can't help raving about it. Simple and precise in the manner of certain Depeche Mode numbers from the recent past, the keyboards build and ring beneath Dave's recitation of memories and regrets about "the one that got away". It is the sort of happy-sad song that very few this side of Sondre Lerche, or Death Cab For Cutie, can pull off so well.

As emotional as the best Associates singles, as expertly arranged and performed as those early O.M.D. sides, and as catchy as any 45 that Phil Oakey and his lot ever laid down some decades past, the compositions here on Emotional Freedom Technique are superb examples of exactly how to integrate electronic effects, keyboards, and samples in the making of wholly human music. Fans of all those bands should love this album as much as I do.

Emotional Freedom Technique by Dave Depper is out on Friday via Tender Loving Empire. More details on Dave Depper via his official website.

[Photo: Jaclyn Campanaro]