Column: Dehd’s musical style is headed in the right direction

Ryan Meyer, Opinions Writer

The one-year anniversary of the release of Chicago-based band Dehd’s third record “Flower of Devotion” is coming up, and although I’ve only listened to it here and there, particularly for a year-end review, I realized that it’s the exact type of record for me.

Initially, I ranked the album as the third best in a stacked year of releases in 2020. In retrospect, “Flower of Devotion” is worth diving deeper into. It features some amazing guitar work, incredible vocal range and unique and incessant percussion.

The guitar playing on this record just about perfectly bridges the gap between country twang and the chime and jangle that I hold so near and dear to my heart.

It’s often fun to daydream about bands having additional instruments or singers, creating the ideal supergroup in your head. Briefly doing this with Dehd, I imagined a second guitarist providing more rhythm and feathery chords behind Jason Balla’s plucked melodies.

While imagining this is fun, a song like “Flood” shows just how pointless that is. Part of the charm of Dehd’s music is the space in between notes and riffs that allows singer and bassist Emily Kempf’s voice to shine. Balla is amazing at saving up his best riffs, in a sense, for a bridge or ending of a song.

“Flood” is the perfect example of this. It’s my favorite song on the record, all on the strength of the beautifully sparse melody towards the end of the song where Kempf sings over Balla’s guitar. The two lead instruments, the guitar and Kempf’s voice, create a wall of noise so perfect that no other guitar is needed.

Pitchfork’s review of the record notes that it was recorded in a studio, leading to the band “dialing up reverb and echo effects and adding touches of synth and tambourine to their minimal set-up.” If this is the case, I’m not complaining. I haven’t dived into the band’s entire discography but compared to their popular song “Lucky” from their 2019 album “Water,” I think the band is heading in the right direction. You can never have too much reverb or echo. Most of the time. And regardless, “Lucky” is a great song, which just goes to show the strength of the group as writers, which will always transcend production value.

The Pitchfork review also notes the song “Apart,” which is drummer Eric McGrady’s first song written for Dehd. It does Dehd even more favors by showing that they’re a trio of extremely talented songwriters that can compose a record containing some of the best tunes in recent memory.

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]