ALBUM REVIEW: Deaf Havana – The Present is a Foreign Land
Photo Credit: Jon Stone
It takes a real strength to admit your weaknesses. The Veck-Gilodi brothers are no strangers to the darkest corners of the human psyche, and they have always approached their song writing with the kind of raw honesty that many would shy away from. Within the first thirty seconds of their latest offering comes the line “I was in a bridge in Singapore thinking of jumping,” and if that isn’t the pinnacle of self-reflection and candour then we couldn’t tell you what is.
Roll back a year and we were looking at Deaf Havana falling apart at the seams. The only remaining members of the longest incarnation of the band are James and Matt Veck-Gilodi, with the former being the soul remaining founding member. Yet here we are in 2022 with the band releasing their sixth full length album, The Present Is A Foreign Land. Retracing familiar themes, with a bold new outlet and nothing but each other and their own creative abilities standing between themselves and desolation.
This album is a testament to the balance between light dark. The melodies and instrumental composition of 19dreams would have you believe that you were listening to the latest pop album, when in actual fact the lyrics are about reflecting on the decisions you’ve made in your life and doubting yourself. However, Deaf Havana have always been at their most powerful when they dial back on the background noise and let James take the wheel with his guitar. The amount of soul the man pours through the microphone during the beautifully tragic ballad Nevermind is enough to reduce the strongest character to ruins. This is the hymn of a wounded poet and one that shows just how wonderfully talented the singer really is.
On a Wire sees the band revert to a more familiar sound. An arena-baiting, pop-rock anthem that boasts one of the most infectious choruses the brothers have penned to date, with a gospel choir thrown into the mix to ensure that the melody is as ironclad as possible. This is one of those songs that you can close your eyes to and envision being sung back from an emphatic festival crowd.
As the album progresses, we find another gem. Someone/Somewhere is a track that shows the kind of direction that Deaf Havana have been heading in for some time. The electronic introduction, coupled with the crystal-clear production and echoed vocals creates a heavy atmosphere, and the inclusion of a female harmony adds another texture to a hauntingly beautiful hook. Once again, the melancholic lyrics are buried beneath the beautiful melody and infectious vocal performances, and would have you believe you were listening to a regular chart song.
Deaf Havana are a band that have changed and grown with every release and have never shied away from making big alterations to their sound. The music has shape-shifted constantly throughout their career and has never suffered with even the slightest downturn in quality – The Present is a Foreign Land is no different. Faces may come and go, but family is forever. The Veck-Gilodi brothers have breathed life back into the band and they have come out swinging, with a release that stands tall in and amongst their back catalogue. It should be more than enough to remove any lingering doubts about the quality of the music going forward, now that the boys are working as a two piece.
The words may be bleak, but the future it bright for Deaf Havana.
Standout Tracks: Nevermind, 19dreams, On a Wire
For Fans Of: Counting Crows, Placebo, City And Colour
Written by: Richard Webb