Nick Delffs’ songs have always come with an irrepressible edge—that’s part of his appeal. From his beloved 2000s jangle-rock band the Shaky Hands to his spirited solo alter-ego Death Songs to his soulful collaboration with Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza, Tiburones, Delffs consistently brings a healthy dose of jittery energy to the music he makes.
Sometimes, this manifests as wild-eyed chaos. Other times, the effect is subtler, embedded in the quiet quiver of his voice. For years, Delffs has sounded like he’s trying to wriggle out of his own skin.
Which is why his new solo album, Redesign—out this week on Mama Bird Recording Co.—is so striking. It’s the first album Delffs has released under his own name, and more than ever before, he sounds at ease. Which is not to say these 10 folksy rock songs lack something that coursed through his earlier work. Instead, their confidence provides a welcome counterbalance to Delffs’ natural restlessness.
It’s not hard to draw a line from the music to the man himself. Delffs moved from Portland to Boise a few years back, became a father, and worked some “real” jobs. You can hear all of this on Redesign, where he sounds urgent but not hurried, uncertain but not unhinged. Delffs wanders, but never gets lost.
Love and loss are major themes in these lyrics, as is the natural world: bright moons, kind daylight, fire and water, skies split in two, sleeping outside. Piano-driven songs like “Running Moon” and “Be My Eyes” have a lovely sort of lucent feel, while “Let It Be Done” and the title track each feature fidgety keyboard parts as core elements.
“Gimme It Now” is a woozy waltz with some wonderfully unpredictable chord changes. “Somewhere Wild” is a paean to strange lands with a faint reggae heartbeat. And “Love in the Meantime” is probably Redesign’s peak, a 21st century Springsteen-esque dream-pop jam that finds Delffs repurposing a platitude: “Living in the moment,” he sings, “you get nowhere.”
Nick Delffs spent years living in the moment. But on Redesign, he trades life in the moment in for life in the real world. It suits him well.