Emotional Contracts, the latest full-length album from Deer Tick, catalogs all the existential casualties that accompany the passing of time, instilling each song with the irresistibly reckless spirit that’s defined the band for nearly two decades. Before heading into the studio with producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Spoon, Sleater-Kinney), the Providence-bred four-piece spent months working on demos in a perpetually flooded warehouse space in their hometown, enduring the busted heating system and massive holes in the roof as they carved out the album’s 10 raggedly eloquent tracks. Emotional Contracts fully echoes the unruly energy of its creation, ultimately making for a heavy-hearted yet wildly life-affirming portrait of growing older without losing heart.
Deer Tick’s first new body of work since 2017’s simultaneously released Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2, Emotional Contracts is their most collaborative to date, and sees all four members operating at their peak songcraft powers. The album came to life over an unusually lengthy period of time for the band, with each track based in playing around together and connected in the almost telepathic way that’s only possible after nearly 20 years. Well-rehearsed and overly prepared, Deer Tick embraced a decidedly more free-and-easy approach to the recording process at Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studios in Western New York. “We’ve had a habit of trying to maintain a strict control over everything in the studio, but this time we wanted to see what it would feel like to let go a bit,” says singer/guitarist John McCauley, whose bandmates include guitarist Ian O’Neil, drummer Dennis Ryan, and bassist Christopher Ryan. “We figured that the songs were strong enough to stand on their own two feet, so whatever we put them through would just make them stronger and take us in some new directions.” Dennis adds, “The fact that we’d spent so much time with these songs allowed us to be really free once we got into the studio. No one was overthinking anything, and because of that the album sounds like us in a way that we’d never captured to this extent before.” Featuring guest musicians like Steve Berlin of Los Lobos–and background vocals from singer/songwriters like Courtney Marie Andrews, Vanessa Carlton (who is also McCauley’s wife), Kam Franklin, Angela Miller, and Sheree Smith–Deer Tick’s ATO Records debut adds an even greater vitality to their feverish collection of timeless rock-and-roll.
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