Deer Tick’s latest one of eclectic sounds

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First Posted: 9/23/2013

Deer Tick’s albums have always slinked past the confines of genre, and their fifth full-length album is no exception. The title carries weight through the thread of sentiment across the 12 tracks, but “Negativity” doesn’t wallow — the sound dips and rises, varying from alt-country to sweet folk to riled rock.

The Rhode Island quintet – guitarist John McCauley, bassist Christopher Dale Ryan, drummer Dennis Ryan, guitarist Ian O’Neil, and Rob Crowell on keys and sax – all contribute vocals, led by McCauley. Like many albums of 2013, horn sections have snuck into several songs.

A blast of brass opens “Trash,” courtesy of Austin collective Grupo Fantasma. Deer Tick’s love song to the open road then mellows into a twangy melody, cresting with a chorus of crashing drums and flirtatious horns. “Where’s all the romance that I used to know/I wanna fall in love again with the open road,” McCauley croons, gravelly and swaying with playful nostalgia, “Checking out past noon, bill me if you want/It’s my disposition as a wasteful savant.”

“Thyme” is an enchantingly sinister rock waltz that’ll appeal to fans of And the Moneynotes and Dr. Dog. The presence of ‘70s style ballads peppered throughout “Negativity” echo those in other recent albums, like Band of Horses’ “Mirage Rock.”

Vanessa Carlton joins McCauley on the un-romantic realities of relationships on country duet “In Our Time.”

“Mirror Walls” stands out with a steady beat, keys that brighten and descend, and a guitar solo wailing for a few bars of speedy sorrow. “Pot of Gold” thrashes with the well-worn energy of early Deer Tick, layering vocals over persistant drumbeats, tearing the listener from the countrified doldrums and showcasing McCauley’s Cobainesque whine—well-suited for their Nirvana covers side project, Deervana.

While the down-and-out sentiments remain throughout “Negativity,” Deer Tick’s coltish spirit, catchy melodies, and accessible lyrics allow for some mainstream sunshine to peek out from behind the clouds.

– Kait Burrier, Weekender Correspondent