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Clouds of Potential in Dehd's "Blue Skies"

Photo courtesy Pitch Perfect PR, Fat Possum Records

Albums are a process, man. It starts with a single, the single snowballs into a theme, that theme reverberates through eight or ten tracks, and boom, you have an album- cohesive and captivating if you do it right. The next step is getting people to listen, and oftentimes, thats the hardest part. First you have to announce the album, then you have to drop the single, and if you just can't wait for your adoring fans to hear a second single, then you drop the second single and wait for the release date. The album rollout CliffsNotes sound simple enough, it's a slam dunk blueprint, good single equals good album. But just like anything, there are always exceptions to the rule, and albums can fall victim to a single that outshines the greater narrative.

Blue Skies is the fourth album from Chicago bred indie rock band, Dehd, and their first project since signing with Fat Possum Records, which has carried acts like The Black Keys, Soccer Mommy, and John Doe. The Dehd trio released their first self-titled album back in 2016 and their sophomore album Water in 2019, before releasing their flagship third album, Flower of Devotion, in the summer of 2020. Flower of Devotion came at a time when it seemed like nothing would ever be the same, and shone a light on the little things. Flower spread a shred optimism around during one of the most pessimistic chapters in our recent history- a moving-forward kind of album- and that left a whole lot to live it up to for the band going forward.

Dehd made a name for themselves using the indie rock sound, starting with the grainy, raw feel of the self-titled album, all the way through the whispier, heavier, more polished sounds of Flowers of Devotion. 2022's Blue Skies sees the band start to take a step forward in their sound, starting to take a more heavily produced, indie pop style mixed in with their signature beachy indie sound. This seemed like the natural progression for the band, and the two lead singles, February's "Bad Love," and March's "Star," were a confirmation of the band's next steps.

Lathered in themes of self-liberation, discovery, and acceptance, the singles signaled a brighter, poppier album from Dehd, but the rest of the tracks fall short of the the quality and polish on the albums singles. The majority of the songs included in the project play more like demos, with many of the songs sitting comfortably in the minute and a half to two minute range, making the album as a whole feel rushed and and incomplete. It's a different sound compared to their last three albums, and the experimentation is front and center in tracks like "Bop" and "Hold," both bright and bouncy tracks, but these inevitably take the backseat to the more fleshed out sections of the album. On the other hand, the tracks that try to replicate the band's previous success also end up falling short. Songs like "Memories" drag on and on, and offer little more than a nostalgia fix.

But Dehd still put together an amazing set of songs, like "Empty in My Mind," "No Difference," "Dream On"- all these tracks mix the best of the old Dehd sound with the new pop sound they're bulldozing themselves into, burying the time capsule one moment, and making love in a discotech the next. Blue Skies is a new step for Dehd. It didn't land quite the way it was expected to, but it's great bones for the band's constantly evolving sound. If you're a Dehd fan, I recommend listening to this album outside of the context of their previous works so you can enjoy the album for what it truly is. And even if you've never heard of Dehd, I still recommend giving it a listen, because there really is something in there for everyone.

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