Some things soften with age but Deep Sea Diver isn’t one of them. The Seattle troupe have reemerged with their sophomore full length Secrets – and they aren’t holding back any punches. The band began as a stage moniker for Jessica Dobson (guitar, vocals) when she released her New Caves EP but quickly expanded to include a variety of revolving members throughout the years. The band’s current, and longest running, lineup includes Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, keys). They released their debut full length History Speaks in 2012 to critical acclaim but continued to slide under the radar.
The band didn’t go silent in the four years between albums though. They continued to hone their live skills which at this point have become as lauded as the music itself. They also released an EP in late 2014 which previewed the album to come. It featured an alternate take on ‘Always Waiting’ which also appears in a reconstructed form on Secrets. The song serves as a good representation for the direction the new album takes. Whereas the version on the EP builds to its natural conclusion, the album adaptation never breaks out but rather persists in the same, steady groove from start to finish.
The logical trajectory of most bands tends to begin with a more unpolished sound and progress to cleaner tones and more slick production. The band’s first 3 releases seemingly followed this pattern but on Secrets, they took a decided left turn. It is by no means a step backwards; simply sideways. Instead of expanding in self-aggrandizing directions they elect for a sharper, more focused palette. Jessica’s guitar work has hinted at a menacing sound in the past but her now distinctive, raw tones are fully realized throughout the entire record.
The difficult task of making your playing erupt with unhinged energy while all the while being perfectly in control now seems like a humdrum task to Dobson. The stabbing notes that open the title track or the discordant, slinky guitar that meander through ‘Wide Awake’ typify her angular string playing. The penultimate example is the slow, oozing drawl of her guitar on ‘Takes A Moment.’ It plays perfectly off of her swooning vocals & jazzy strings that saunter through the background.
Overall, the album allows the music more room to breath without dragging anything out. The songs aren’t necessarily longer than previous tunes but they feel less compact and yet also weightier. The density with which they blend strings and percussion, melody and rhythm makes for a hefty stew. The lyrics also add to the dense feeling. Lyrically songs like ‘Body on the Tracks’ and ‘Creatures of Comfort’ don’t provide any easy answers. Instead they advocate a bull-by-the-horn mentality that takes a heavy breath to inhale.
Secrets is the snapshot of a band exploring new territory while focusing their efforts to a sharp, refined point. The pallet with which the band paints has become so broad. They succeed in aging without getting softer. The balancing act songs like album opener ‘Notice Me’ are able to execute is staggering. It’s no secret why so many famous acts hail the band’s abilities and Secrets pays off the listen in so many respects.