Deep Cuts, Gulf Coast Companion Vol. 1

Deep Cuts, <i>Gulf Coast Companion Vol. 1</i>

Bad news first: no, this isn’t a brand-new full-length from quirky, beach-loving popsters Deep Cuts. That release is coming, yes, but this isn’t it, not yet. Instead, Gulf Coast Companion Vol. 1 is an everything-up-to-now compilation of all the music the supremely talented quintet has thrown out there, all cleaned up and shiny and bubbly and sunshiny.

Oh, and it’s a cassette, that least-beloved of formats for seemingly everybody but me. I’ve gotten grief from multiple people about my love for cassettes, so don’t bother — yes, I get that the sound quality is probably worse than any other medium, and that tapes deteriorate like few other mediums do. So what? When I grew up, cassettes were what I saved my hard-earned money to buy; they’re what formed my initial musical consciousness, not records or CDs. I may listen to music in digital form these days, for the most part, but those cassettes still live in their racks in the garage, even now.

Now, if you’re a Deep Cuts superfan, you’re probably not going to hear a whole lot that’s new here — some newly remastered versions of songs from the band’s Love Grows EP (which is stellar, by the way, but we’ll get to that), plus the “Advent Ansiedad” and “Slow Descent” singles, and a pile of older tracks that only true diehards are likely to be familiar with (and yes, I’ll freely admit that I’m not, but again, we’ll get to that).

The only thing that’s not on here, in fact, is last year’s limited-edition 7″ “While the House Fills Up,” which I’m betting you can now only get in digital form via the band’s Bandcamp site. Everything else these guys have ever done, though, it’s all here.

And for the aforementioned Deep Cuts superfan, yeah, you’re really only going to need this release for the fact that it’s also a limited-edition deal — you’ll only be able to get the comp in real-live cassette form for an as-yet-unspecified period of time (a month? six months? no clue), after which you’ll have to go to Bandcamp for your fix.

That said, it’s pretty cool to hear the tracks from Love Grows again, because it’s been a little while since I’ve listened to the straight-up indie-drone-rock of “Arcus Cloud,” the woozy, wobbly “Serpents,” the drifting and sweet “Barely There,” or the bouncy and cheerful “Alchemist,” which brings a bit of windswept Western dust in to touch the waves and lend things a bit of a Tejano sound. “Cigarette Boat” lives on my iPhone, with its gentle, alluring Tropicalia, and so does “Causeway,” a nervous-yet-warm-hearted ode to the untouristed side of Galveston, and to the Gulf Coast in general, but the rest I’d somewhat relegated to every-now-and-then listening, I cringe to admit, and right now I’m smacking myself in the head for that.

Then there’s the two early singles — 2013’s “Slow Descent” was the first thing I ever heard by the band, and now it comes off as being far more Latin-sounding than most of Deep Cuts’ more recent stuff, at least to me, with far less of the watery, beach-y feel they’ve embraced lately. It’s also decidedly rawer and less shiny-clean polished than the band’s later stuff; there’s more of a garage-rock vibe to it all, despite the undeniably pretty guitar lines.

“Advent Ansiedad” I’d never heard ’til this release, and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite tracks by these guys. It’s a Latin-tinged, surf-meets-snow anti-Christmas tune, with singer Zach Alderman confessing the fear and trepidation that grips him each and every December, and its buck-the-crowd anxiety is endearing and strangely, wonderfully intimate, like you’re getting a glimpse into the part of Alderman’s mind that he can’t really give voice to when the holidays roll around.

Beyond that, there’s the really early stuff, which comprises the second half of Gulf Coast Companion. And this is the part I’m finding most interesting, because while I’ve liked those Deep Cuts guys for a while, I didn’t get to witness their early-early days, so it’s nice to see how they’ve mutated and grown over the past few years. “Brian” is probably the most straight-up indie-pop thing on here, with a Vampire Weekend-ish feel to it, and lyrics that step carefully through a warm, heartfelt theme about family and brotherhood and getting lost in life. “Nietzsche” has some dancey, samba-ish rhythms and plaintive pleading for guidance (I think?) from Friedrich Nietzsche, while “Meta Girl” is slow and languid, ruminating about writing songs for a girl.

Another highlight for me is “Still Believe,” which starts slow and uncertain but revs up halfway through, after Alderman declares, “I still believe…in evil.” The keys pound away, the guitars jangle and roar, and the whole damn thing nearly explodes into an early (read: good) Arcade Fire song. Plus, I like the “yeah!”s in the background right at the beginning; it’s a nice touch.

Deep Cuts closes things out with “Minimal Waltz,” which is sorta-kinda what it says on the tin: a keyboards-and-drum-machine-only, waltz-ish tune that’s definitely minimal, to say the least. Despite its near four-minute running time, the track surprisingly doesn’t bore or drag on, but rather serves to bring things down a little, letting you slip beneath the waves and relax.

So going back to the beginning: no, this isn’t a new album from Deep Cuts, not really, and while I do wish it was (and look forward eagerly to the promised one), that’s okay. Because to go forwards, sometimes you have to look backwards first, and that’s exactly what Gulf Coast Companion does — it takes the band, and the listener, back to their formative days, meandering through time to see where they’ve been so far and where they used to be. It’s intriguing to “watch” in reverse as the band tries on and discards different sounds, only to bring ’em back in later (er, earlier?) on.

In the end, while Companion may not break any new ground for these guys, it’s definitely got my interest very solidly recaptured…and I suspect that was their devious, sly-smiling plan all along. Well played, Deep Cuts, well played indeed. Now give us the goddamn new album already, right?

[Deep Cuts is playing its cassette release show 1/15/16 at Satellite Bar, along with B.E. Godfrey & Co., Total Luau, Thlon (Collin Hedrick from Giant Princess), & DJ Bud Ice.]
(VeryJazzed --; Deep Cuts --; Deep Cuts (Facebook) --; Deep Cuts (Twitter) --; Deep Cuts (Bandcamp) --
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Review by . Review posted Friday, January 15th, 2016. Filed under Reviews.

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One Response to “Deep Cuts, Gulf Coast Companion Vol. 1

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » One Night, Two Album Releases: Deep Cuts & NEXT WAVE (& A Few Other Things, Too) on January 15th, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    […] If you’re a fan, you probably already know a fair number of the songs, but there’s also some cool older stuff I hadn’t ever heard before, and it’s a great reminder of just how fucking good these guys are. They are seriously the sound of Houston summertime, to me. And hey, I reviewed the album over here. […]

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