In 2011, Deaf Havana released the mostly self depreciating album Fools and Worthless Liars, and now, with a few extra members, including James’s (Veck-Gilodi, vocals and guitar) brother, the band are back with an album that puts, well… everything else, to shame. Earlier this year the guys supported Bruce Spingsteen at Hard Rock Calling, and this album is obviously heavily influenced by him – in contrast to the band’s earliest work, it’s a phenomenal change. There is no doubt that their genre of music has changed, but the passion, honesty and truth in their lyrics hasn’t.
Their first track and single from the album, Boston Square, is based on a friend who took his own life, and is mentioned in Hunstanton Pier; James believed he deserved his own song. The song is named after a place the boys used to spend a lot of time in their youth, and featured on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show in May this year – they accompanied this release with a tour announcement and a release date for the new album, Old Souls. The way in which James writes about the death in a poetic and sensitive manner hints at a less cynical attitude on this album, and perhaps he is getting more accustomed to growing up.
My first opinion of Lights, the was that it belonged on a soundtrack to a film – the slow intro builds up and the influences of country music are prominent throughout. The lyrics are speaking of a longing for his youth, but his intonation hints that he grown up a lot since previously writing about his home town, and could almost be classed as optimistic. This new found optimism continues through the album, and Everybody’s Dancing and I Want to Die holds a note of upbeat cynicism, talking about his loneliness as a child, but not in the brutal manner featured in the previous album. Ironically, it’s a song that very much makes you want to dance – oh, and there’s a trumpet in there too, so what’s not to love?!
Subterranean Bullshit Blues features a soul singer, who will be joining Deaf Havana on their upcoming tour. This is very much a song that sounds like it was designed to be performed acoustically, and I felt it was influenced by bands such as REM and Crowded House. The song is mainly powered by the acoustic guitar, and is the first sign on the album of just how much the band have changed in their style of music.
The last track on Fools and Worthless Liars, Fifty Four, was written about James’s girlfriend, and the next track on Old Souls, Night Drives, almost feels like a beautiful love song reply to that song, as Catrina Davis wrote it. In amongst James’s solo work, he also wrote another track about Catrina, Thank God For Bright Eyes, and the simplicity of that track is carried into Night Drives, in the fact that it mainly focusses of the beautiful lyrics, and the music just enhances it and doesn’t steal the show. If no one has already told her, Catrina most definitely has a talent for song writing, and the only shame is that it’s the only song she’s put to paper that the band have brought to life.
22 is another track on this album in which James hints that he might finally be finding happiness, if not in a regretful sense, with lines such as “cause I’m somewhere between happy and okay”. Towards the close there are a few beautiful lines where the music is purely that of James and his guitar, before Tom (Ogden, drums) pulls the pace up again with a fast drumbeat before the song can slip into the melancholy that shrouded most of the previous album. The optimism seems to increase in general through the album, with Speeding Cars – the second release – including the line “I’m still hoping I can get back on my feet / I just need a little time.” Unlike most of the other tracks, this song doesn’t open with an acoustic guitar, but with Max (Britton) playing a few chords on the keyboard, interlaced with James voice. This is just another way that the band show they’re not just settling for what they’re used to, and are growing into a genre they love.
On Deaf Havana’s acoustic tour in April, they played one song of the new album – Saved – and when you listen to the studio version, you can clearly tell that it was designed to be performed acoustically. This track is considerably slower than any of the others on the album, and for a change, the song would seem to have been written from a position of superiority and wisdom, not of self depreciation. Another song which is not written about anyone in the band, but about a friend who grew up too fast, is Mildred (Lost A Friend), another track which featured on Radio 1. It is the first song they have written which features prominently features Matthew’s (Veck-Gilodi, vocals and guitar) voice and story of growing up – the two brothers’ voices work together sublimely, and this is one of the highlights of the album.
Tuesday People is very different to the rest of the album, with a more electronic intro, and this difference continues throughout the track. It is remarkably refreshing to hear so much music not written about the lead singer, and the inclusion of beautiful backing vocals makes this song an absolute triumph, standing apart from the rest of the album – that said, there are no two songs that could be mistaken for one another on Old Souls.
Kings Ghost Road is promised to be the last song the lead singer ever writes about where he grew up and sounds the closest to their previous album, with lyrics such as “These street don’t feel like home to me / I missed the days I used to knew I had a place / And all the friends I thought I loved weren’t far away.” His voice is filled with emotion and bursting with his childhood views of his home town, but it is clear he has musically exhausted all the attachment he had Hunstanton. The final song, Caro Padre is brutally raw and honest, a song about James realising and coming to terms with who he is and his father’s influence, repeating the lines “It’s clear what I’ve become / I am my father’s son”. This recollection hints at the fact this may be the end of an era, and end of James blaming himself for his outlook and attitudes, and if the rest of Old Souls is anything to go by, it is. James is joined by London Youth Choir in is vocals for the closing track of this incredible album.
It’a not hard to tell that Deaf Havana have changed a massive amount since Fools and Worthless Liars – not only their music style, but the reception they received from that album has obviously changed their attitude towards their lifestyles and their lyrics. With heavy influences from bands such as Counting Crows, the Norfolk sextet have definitely released their best album to date, and one of the best of this year.