Ode to Sunshine, Delta Spirit's debut, was a suitably sunny romp among rock, country, blues, and pop roots from a 21st-century indie-rock perspective, ragged enough to authenticate the passion in Matt Vasquez's musings and soulful howl, as well as identify the San Diego quintet as true believers. Three years later, their sophomore effort, History from Below (Rounder), is even better. Vasquez has emerged as a formidable writer who eloquently captures the ambivalence of life's triumphs and tragedies, from the gospel-like "Vivian," with its touching, heartfelt chorus ("waiting to see heaven with you"), to the murderous revenge in "Ballad of Vitaly." The band's roots-savvy sound is masterfully crafted without being self-conscious, casually referencing the Band, the Stones, country blues, the Bakersfield sound, even the raucous glory of Let It Be-era Replacements. Much of Delta Spirit's explosive energy is kept in check on History in favor of songs that simmer and brood, building exquisite tension as Vasquez spins his tales, such as "Salt in the Wound," so taut with anguish by the end that the guitar strings whine at the strain. Elsewhere things rock a bit harder, especially "Golden State," with its slashing, Keith Richards-like guitar, and "911," rife with political implications and a Beatles chorus. Overall, it's a bristling, accomplished album from a confident band just hitting its stride. Opening will be Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, a band that emerged from Tufts University a few years back, quickly building a cult rep via a folkie-punk-indie-rock vibe attached to Furman's quirky narrative tunes (which have been compared to early Dylan). 18+.
Fri., June 18, 7:30 p.m., 2010