The band Deaf Havana has passed through a Scylla and Charybdis of sorts since their last release 2013’s Old Souls. The band after that release was on the brink of financial crisis and almost broke up. That perilous period provided a renewal of resolve. In addition it revealed a band who has resiliently bounced back producing their best album to date, the luminous All These Countless Nights.
Even before the events of 2013 Deaf Havana has had their share of upheaval, their original lead singer Sebastian Spitz left just before the release of their 2009 debut Meet Me Halfway At Least. He was replaced by then band lead guitarist James Veck-Gilodi who was reluctant to step into the spotlight but has since flourished as the lead singer and songwriter. In the period that followed the band would continue building upon their skills with impressive live performances, and release two additionally well received albums. “All These Countless Nights” bears witness to the completion of a period of development for the band and displays their metamorphosis from college garage rock creation into a band of masterful music craftsmen.
Deaf Havana was founded in 2005 at the College of West Anglia in Hunstanton, King’s Lynn. The moniker for the band was created by now departed founding member Sebastian Spitz, but has no real meaning. After some switch ups in the band line up, the most significant Spitz’s departure, the band settled down to brothers James Veck-Gilodi on vocals, guitars and keyboards, and Matthew Veck-Gilodi on guitar, along with Max Britton providing keyboards and guitar, Lee Wilson on bass and Tom Ogden on drums. Deaf Havana with their 2011 release Fools and Worthless Liars would pick up momentum playing larger festivals and venues.
They would snag a #1 on the UK Rock Album Charts in November of 2011. In 2013 the band would release “Old Souls” and continue to win critical praise from the likes of Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens. They also garnered impressive opening spots with the likes of Bruce Springsteen at the Hard Rock Calling Festival and opening for Muse on the German leg of their 2013 tour. Deaf Havana was also asked to play the NME/BBC radio stage in 2013. They ended that year headlining their largest tour in the UK finishing at the Roundhouse in London. “Old Souls” would reach number 9 on the British Charts driven by the singles, Speeding Cars and Boston Square. Each release displays lyrics and accompaniments that continue to ripen and improve and it remains difficult to decide if the lyrics are better than the accompaniment or vice versa; on each successive album Deaf Havana has displayed growth and maturity.
On “All These Countless Nights” the band signals a more confident approach to their music. James Veck-Gilodi who has never pulled punches with where he is at emotionally; he seems to be in a better place these days and it is reflected throughout the new release. The band appears to be at the top of their game finding the perfect balance between energetic garage inspired rock tunes such as found on “Fools and Worthless Liars” and the soulful introspection of “Old Souls”. They hit the sweet spot with this release while never giving up on the central theme of their lyrics. That theme being the examination of the uncomfortable things you discover about yourself and the set backs in your life that make you who you are. The album commences with Ashes, Ashes which is loaded with energy and is relentlessly alluring. The song is a masterful weaving of earnest emotions with excellent sonics. The lyrics question the time we waste, “counting spiders on the wall while my mind withers away”. The track underlines Veck-Gilodi’s distinctive vocal abilities. Trigger is expansively ebullient and musical spans from beautifully intricate to stomping arena rock all in one track. The song’s theme examines co dependency and substance abuse a continuing topic for Veck-Gilodi but is not at all preachy. “I held the gun, but you pulled the trigger and we watched it all go.” Veck-Gilodi proceeds to identify all the damage that occurs. “Trigger” is a fantastic track and the culmination of the promise Deaf Havana has always hinted.
L.O.V.E is again evidence that Deaf Havana has been polishing their technique to a mirror shine. They have perfected the combining of a heartfelt pull no punches lyric with a thunderously impressive sound. There is a beautiful balance between cranking guitars and engaging keyboards. Happiness finds Veck-Gilodi continuing on his quest for answers to life’s existential quandaries. He questions why it is so easy to do the things we shouldn’t and so hard to do the things we should. Again alcoholism rears its head ruining a relationship, “it eats away at everything mostly love.” Some would say the topic has been done to death but here the band handles the theme so guilelessly it gets under your skin.
Fever was an early pre release single and is a fantastic choleric and seething rocker. To me it is reminiscent of a winning Pixies grinder. Both “Happiness” and “Fever” display a band that can bounce easily from evocative ballad to anathematic stadium rocker on the turn of a dime. The album continues onward with two ballads that are certainly within the wheelhouse of Veck-Gilodi, Like a Ghost and Pretty Low, both are relatable existential crises. They deal with depression and the days when we allow life to ebb and crawl by having no one to blame but our selves as we wallow in self pity. What is amazing about both selections is the effective utilization of the quiet/loud technique producing an addictive fire and ice allure that is refreshing and not at all stale.
The track England finds Veck-Gilodi questioning the common knowledge handed out by society and parents. His trekking around the world has revealed to him that no one has all the answers but in the end there is comfort that comes from the familiar. The track is with its aggressive bounce a nice contrast to the ballad Seattle as both show off Veck-Gilodi’s impressive song writing skills. On “Seattle” he relates his homesick feelings while on the road and the regrets of never being able to grow the friendships made while touring. It is a beautiful and evocative track. “St Paul’s” is a ruminating ballad. The track is about meeting someone new and wondering if you have enough bravery to upturn your settled life when the outcome is not at all a sure thing. The song sonically builds and builds the drama of the narrative and delivers a brilliantly satisfying conclusion.
Sing is another energy laden uptempo song that has Veck-Gilodi examining why he is driven to sing. The song is addictive and breathtaking in its lyrically honest. The final track Pensacola 2013 is a bittersweet snapshot in time. It is a narrative about youthful indiscretions, and the search for interaction with the human beings you are surrounded by at the time. The song speaks to the phenomena of connecting with people so deeply and then experiencing the sadness of losing that connection through the distractions of life and inevitably death. It is again a song that will stick with you and bounce into your thoughts as you go through life experiences. Each selection on the release is solidly structured and beautifully wrought and I hesitate to use a stale line but there is truly not a loser in the collection.
All These Countless Nights Is a magnificent release. The album like every great album has songs that connect with the listener wherever they find themselves currently on life’s journey. It morphs in meaning resurfacing in remembered lyrics as you go through various life experiences. That occurrence alone should give the release lasting power and an enduring shelf life. The album is remarkable in its balancing of energy and emotion while bearing its soul. The band is still relatively young and I hope this album is just the beginning of a long career for such a truly gifted group of musicians. In conclusion one thing Deaf Havana can never be accused of is being gutless. They always push themselves past existing comfort zones all the while maintaining their vision and dignity displaying true heart and class. This is their best effort yet, well done!