Review: Negativity (Deer Tick)

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Americana, sadly, seems to be less popular these days. Even the legendary Wilco has strayed from their folk heritage, as of late. With the fate of modern Americana heading toward extinction, there are five words that can bring us a little hope:

Thank God for Deer Tick.

On their fifth outing Negativity, Deer Tick reinvigorates the alt-country scene with twelve stellar pieces of Americana pop/rock.

The album moves quickly — Opener “The Rock,” building dramatically and then unleashing its racing percussion and fiery horns amidst leader John McCauley’s unbridled vocal bursts. It solidifies effortlessly — the melodic, mid-tempo ballad “Just Friends” somehow recalling both Jackson Browne and Elvis Costello simultaneously in places. Mid-album slow-burners like “Mr. Sticks” and “Trash” then allow the overcast mood of the album to set in appropriately.

After an odd-in-theory, pleasant-in-execution duet with Vanessa Carlton on “In Our Time,” the band finishes quietly with the stunningly gorgeous “Big House” — an understated, sparse little number (a-la “Dirty Dishes”) — and leaves the listener with a fitting spirit, in accordance with the album’s name and theme.

Granted — McCauley’s throaty voice can definitely grate in his higher range, and perhaps too much so for some listeners. Overall though, the songwriting is solid, the arrangements are balanced, and the album swells and simmers the way any good Americana album should. Good work, boys.

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