PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Deer Tick: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

Photo: Laura Partain

Deer Tick sidestepped the pressure of double albums by releasing two separate records on the same day, inviting but not forcing listeners to associate them.

Deer Tick

Deer Tick Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

US Release Date: 2017-09-15
UK Release Date: 2017-09-15

Releasing a double album is a high risk/high reward proposition. It could be so conceptually strong that it positions the band as true visionaries (see: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness), or tell a story so sweeping it could never fit on one disc (see: The Wall), or cement a band's place within a particular genre (see: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below).

Or, it could be a complete and utter disaster (see: Metallica & Lou Reed's atrocious Lulu). Even Bob Dylan flubbed hard on Self Portrait.

Thankfully, that's a sandbox that perennially enjoyable folk-rockers Deer Tick didn't even try to play in. They sidestepped the whole "double album" moniker entirely and simply released two distinct albums on the same day, conveniently titled Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2.

That's not to say there isn't a relationship between the two records. Vol. 1 is the "quiet" record of mostly stripped-down acoustic numbers, while Vol. 2 is the "loud" record, full of feedback and fight. It's like the dichotomy that Counting Crows played with on Saturday Nights & Sunday Morning -- a raucous Saturday night bender followed by an introspective Sunday morning -- but flipped.

And flipping that script was a smart move -- not only in terms of overall quality but because the sound of Vol. 1 is more closely aligned with Deer Tick's catalog. And it's really good -- a journey into human emotion, a series of side streets and feeder roads that, eventually, provide an onramp onto the wide freeway that is Vol. 2.

Vol. 1 is the stronger of the records, a vivid look into the lives of empathetic characters, featuring surgically precise lyrics. Folk/Americana often strays toward pessimism, but usually in a direct way: tales of downtrodden wanderers, straightforward anecdotes about everyday people caught up in hard times. Deer Tick goes for something more abstract, an emotional wasteland of imagery. "Hope Is Big" is a perfect example, Ian O'Neil's voice sounding as ancient and windblown and timeless as the hills. It could have been an early Dylan tune, played in a set alongside "Blowin' in the Wind", a song that speaks to the inevitability of failure with a devastating matter-of-factness.

That sense of inevitable badness carries through to "Only Love", which brings a precious sense of hope to the knowledge that everything will eventually fall apart. "It's only love, so don't be afraid / It will let you down, but not today / It's only love, only love / It won't let you down until tomorrow." Eat, drink, and be merry, it says, for tomorrow you're gonna be a sadsack. Juxtapose that with the upbeat bitterness of "Card House", whose chorus ends with "You can sail away on the finest timbers / I can run your ship aground." Start to finish, Vol. 1 is a damn fine album with lots of lyrical and emotional nooks and crannies to explore.

Vol. 2 takes a whole different tack, plugging in, cranking the feedback, and truncating the compositions to near-punk lengths. It's done somewhere between the styles of the Replacements and vintage Tom Petty, mixing radio-ready hooks with intentionally messy playing. It has some ridiculously catchy tracks, chief among them "Jumpstarting" and "Tiny Fortunes". The only downside is that by making the surface area of their sound bigger on Vol. 2, they reduced its intimacy. There are fewer emotional touchpoints, fewer of those delicious nooks and crannies that make Vol. 1 a disc worth revisiting several times.

Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are technically separate releases, but one can't help consider them as a whole. And despite spanning 20 tracks, there's virtually no filler here. If pressed to find deadweight, only a couple of tracks come to mind. "Me and My Man" from Vol. 1 is a bit one-note, and "Pulse" from Vol. 2, while interesting, doesn't fit so well within that sonic universe and stretches on for long enough that you wish there'd been some lyrics -- even a handful of curated lines in the middle -- to break the monotony.

Deer Tick could have done a lot with their plethora of strong songs: made painful cuts to release a regular album, or shoehorned an overarching narrative in and called it a concept album. But the simplest solution was the correct one. They just put out two good records on the same day, inviting but not forcing listeners to associate them. Vol. 1 is better, but as a whole, they're a good entry point for new Deer Tick listeners. You get some acoustic tracks with finely crafted lyrics and then a hook-heavy rock show to finish it off.

If history has taught us anything, you could do far, far worse than this non-double album.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.