Albums can really stick with you. You’ll be doing something unremarkable and a few notes drift out of a passing car or from a fire escape and your memory triggers. Suddenly you’re transported back in time to a place and an emotion that you didn’t realize you’d forgotten. It’s as close to magic in the real world as I’ve experienced.
Being a child of the new millennia, some of my definitive albums date me. The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells reminds me of a stuffy apartment during a windy Colorado winter with the one I let get away. Beck’s Sea Change is a drunken summer spent sleeping rough on a leather couch, starting a new life in a new city. King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King will always transport me stoned and exhausted after a night shift, dawn light filtering into my basement room with the feel of shag carpet on my shoulders, exhilarated by the sounds emanating from the speakers. I could go on and on, and I bet any of you could, too.
Point is, sometimes a particular album really grabs you by the guts and connects with you in a way that leaves an impression in space and time that you’ll never be able to shake. For me, the latest of these is Morgan Delt’s Phase Zero.
Opening track, “I Don’t Want To See What’s Happening Outside,” is a jittery tale of a man lamenting the terrible events surrounding him but it’s served up in a beautiful blanket of West-Coast psych. Layered guitars envelop everything in warm fuzz. A minimal, happy beat shuffles you along as Delt’s soft falsetto harmonies float above it all. In a summer that was raging with triple-digit temps, it proved the ideal soundtrack I didn’t know I needed. I was hooked, and while the album was only in the pre-order stage, I immediately bought it on the strength of that track alone.
Delt continues the trip with a chillier vibe on “System of 1000 Lies,” as a superb but simple guitar lead and a chunky bassline pull you through space at the speed of Earth’s rotation and crests the horizon of “Another Person.” He picks up the tempo with “Sun Powers” and subsequent songs, but a pervasive…closeness…is always present. Phase Zero is an almost tactile aural experience as the energy of every song presses against you, varying from the welcome caress of a familiar lover to the nervous comfort of a first date’s leg against yours on the subway.
After an alternating frenetic/mellow trip, the record comes full circle with “Some Sunsick Day.” It’s almost a thesis for the whole album, bringing back the upbeat vibe of the opening track while smoothly including the spacier, more nervous aspects of the rest of the record. The message is melancholy but also hopeful, and as this record is pressed so warmly against you it leaves you feeling the same.
Phase Zero has left an emotional imprint that will always lay in my mind next to a heavy heat over NYC, the madness of this year and it’s aspirations. It could do the same for you. I look forward to hearing it, years from now, drifting out of a car window some sunsick day.
Morgan Delt’s Phase Zero is out now on Sub Pop Records and you can follow the man himself for news, tour dates and such on his Facebook.
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