Born on Flag Day – Deer Tick

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By Jonathan Reiss

Never would I brave the claim that folk music is in its renaissance, however it may be one of the most interesting subgenres of underground music today. Born On Flag Day is the second album by Providence, Rhode Island-based, Deer Tick, and it clearly falls into the underground folk category. Not the droney, trippy, Devendra Barnhardt kind of folk. I mean the fun kind.

Aside from making the huge mistake of naming their band Deer-something and thereby getting lost in the morass of recent indie bands named after this lovely forest dweller, Deer Tick is generally pleasant sounding. Take upbeat, swishy and swirly guitar playing that sounds like a cross between Johnny Marr and The Magic Numbers, mix it with the vocals of Lucero and Mischief Brew and then throw some Waylon Jennings with a dash of surf rock and you get Deer Tick. The female background vocalist softens gruff singer/songwriter John McCauley’s voice and adds a fifties ice-cream-social type sound to the songs (think Modest Mouse’s Sleepwalking.)

For the most part, listening to Deer Tick made me want to listen to the other bands that they remind me of. I mentioned that it’s pleasant right? Who can say why, but we're at a saturation point where amazing folk bands are so ubiquitous that for a new band to stand out, they have to kill it. In folk, you can throw in a bunch of different musical influences, add a girl singer, pull out a cello and have a tambourine, (all of which are on this record) but in the end, powerful vocals and strong, trenchant songwriting is what’s key. I wasn’t wowed by the record after two listens and I didn’t find myself walking around humming any of the songs, but I think this record might have growth power, and the sound is totally… what’s another word for pleasant?