Album Review: Dehd – Blue Skies

[Fat Possum; 2022]

Chicago trio Dehd know a thing or two about adaptation. The surf-punk threesome has honed their brand of jangle pop over the last half decade or so and it’s become apparent their hearts are devoted to bringing their own unique edge to these tried and tested styles. Being from the Windy City has its advantages – the band operates inside a healthy scene where their hybrid style flourishes alongside adjacent acts like Deeper, and it’s positioned them for global tours in a relatively short amount of time.

Having released music as far back as 2016, they properly arrived fresh-faced with 2020’s breakthrough Flower of Devotion. It was littered with punchy, bleeding-heart rock that thousands no doubt felt a connection to, especially in the thick of a global pandemic that shuffled a planet nearly off its axis.

None of that shit from the last two years seems to have had an impact on their latest, Blue Skies, as the band has clearly adopted a new sense of purpose. While the aesthetic and instrumentation are the same, a song like album highlight “Bop” would’ve found like an outlier on Flower of Devotion. Here it’s a toe-tapping heel clicker that blends in nicely with the rest of Emily Kempf’s sparkling proclivities. Most of Blue Skies employs this spunkier and livelier production, which could be credited to the band’s jump to Fat Possum for this album, or maybe it’s just because after all of the turmoil and commotion of the last few years it was time for a pandemic record to be, who knows, maybe not about how shitty things are?

Blue Skies is an apt title too, with Kempf’s lyrical tone paving the way for brighter compositions. Dehd clearly have an aspiration to make the confident summer record, which is lofty, but they hit the mark almost every time. “Bad Love” is a fluttering banger with groovy licks and a swaying gait that should move any idle listeners to employ some fancy footwork, perhaps across a mosh pit or dancefloor. A jangle pop feel is more prevalent on this album too, and cuts like “Clear” show off Kempf’s appreciation for sunnier melodies. She’s still engaged with her feelings, but not consumed by them as much.

The shared vocal responsibility with Jason Balla also feel easier than ever – they meet in the middle for “Memories”, making for a lovely pairing that promotes resilience as they sing “Memories were lost, but I’m not / Doing all I can to hang on.”

Probably the most astounding example of maturity for Dehd is the album’s penultimate track, “Stars”, where Balla admits “My heart ain’t strong enough for me,” before relinquishing control to the instrumentation and allowing it to carry them across the finish line.

Blue Skies lives up to its title in the best ways possible, with repeated detours from the norm. Post-punk bands tend to veer dark and brooding, but Dehd avoid that here, putting all of their energy into sunny anthems filled with dizzying coos, lighthearted hooks and charming rhythms. It all helps them bounce across the record and into our hearts for good.