Happy vs sad, together vs apart, good vs evil — Dehd’s third full-length album Flower of Devotion takes listeners on a bilateral journey, exploring the lightest and darkest parts of growing up.
Chicago based trio Dehd is like no other. They are no strangers to DIY, Jason Balla (vox/guitar) was part of both Earring and the buzzy band Ne-Hi; Emily Kempf (vox, bass) was making music as Vail while also playing on and off with Lala Lala; and Eric McGrady was quite the familiar face in the scene. Surface level the band appears to be “no-frills,” but their ability to maximize their sound despite their minimalism* is undisputed.
Dehd has a special way of creating a melody out of what is bluntly a cheeky conversation put to music. This call-and-response like songwriting takes their jangly guitar and straightforward percussion to new heights, creating hook-filled songs complimented by the long drawl of Balla and the yelps of Kempf. “Desire” is the perfect example of this magic cocktail, ending the track in what seems like a screaming match, truly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Early singles “Letter” and “Loner” established high expectations for Flower of Devotion. Giving listeners a voyeuristic glimpse into what seem like diary entries. On the track “Letter” Kempf croons, “I was there first, yeah you’re just following me / good luck with that girl, I’m a tough act to beat.” These lyrics paired with a breathtaking music video of Kempf laying down getting over 30 flower tattoos, illustrates the process of trying to feel like yourself again after having an ex-lover move on. “Loner” feels like the opposite of “Letter,” sending listeners into the light and creating an anthem of isolation. The song builds to a rip-roaring riff with persistent pulsing rhythm complimented Kempf’s raw vocal, which at this point feels like an additional instrument and band member within itself, “I’ve had enough of each other / Want nothing more than to be a Loner”.
The stand out track is “No Time.” The growl of Kempf’s vocal, matched with Balla’s wormy guitar sounds and the tireless rhythm of McGrady, are what makes Dehd such a stand out band. Lyrically glum, melodically danceable, you can’t help but want to move. Unlike the other two albums, this one features “Apart” which was written and sung by McGrady, “I feel myself falling apart” he chants gruffly, rounding out the album to give us an honest take on the human condition.
Classically, there is an air of confidence and unfortunately, pretension that is associated with minimalism within the guitar oriented genre. In the past ten years of independent rock music, many have relied on various forms to approach this aforementioned formula, with successful attempts, and some, not so much. Flower of Devotion truly stands out as an example of success in that it stands alone from the past, but references it at the same time. While the band Initially was defined by their charming songs, they have grown to give listeners so much more — a peek into their personal lives.
*the band manages to be so minimalistic that they were able to tour the country in a car, however, they are now the proud owners of a van.
Flower of Devotion is out now via Fire Talk Records.
Essential Tracks: “Desire”, “Loner”, “Letter”