Firstly, I ought to admit – I know the guys (and lady) in Deadwood Floats, and played a show with them last year. Therefore, it would be fairly awkward for me to write a negative review of their new record. Luckily, I don’t have to.
A few introductions: Deadwood Floats is a six-piece folk band from Columbus, Ohio, made up of Adam Schultz, Drew Williams, Katie Kramer, Tommy Williams, Luke Fleeman, and Joel Arter. The band has been together for five years, and, in 2011, they released their debut EP, Provence (available on their Bandcamp). Since that first EP, the band has released a slew of singles, each accompanied by the promise of an LP. Three years later, it is finally here, and, appropriately enough, it is titled Three Years.
Simply put, this album is beautiful. From start to finish, the songs flow from one to another in an effortless manner that speaks volumes to the maturity of this band. Having had the opportunity to see them live, I can confirm that the record captures the energy and intimacy of their live shows magnificently. It goes beyond that, however. The clean, organized mixes show off intricacies in their arrangements that are often lost in the hubbub of a live show. The vibe of the album reminds me a little bit of the first Paper Kites EP – warm, clean, and oddly familiar in a very pleasant way. It creates a feeling for which there’s no real adequate term for in English – in German it would be “sehnsucht.” C.S. Lewis describes it as “that unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of ‘Kubla Khan’, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.” Simply put, it’s a nostalgia for a home you’ve never had, or a place you’ve never been. The ability of this album to inspire that feeling in a listener is remarkable, and it clearly demonstrates their ability to communicate effectively through music.
While this LP is cohesive to the point that it really ought to be enjoyed in its entirety, there are a few tracks that stand out. The title track (and its reprise) set a reflective tone that is echoed throughout the rest of the album. The first line, “it took us all of three years just to see how ugly we are / it took us all of five years just to see we were never really in love,” mirrors the career of the band – five years since they started, and three years since their last record. There’s a sense of nostalgia coupled with an admission of struggle that comes together into one of the more relatable lyrics I’ve heard recently. The only other track with a reprise, ‘Mars Oversea,’ was the second single released prior to the album, and rightly so – while it lacks the sing-along chorus of ‘The Colours I Earned,’ their first single and a highlight of my summer mixtape last year, it is subtly infectious, packed with lyrics that stick in the listener’s head for hours afterwards. “The sea is mine / Mars is not mine / But fitting with you is fine” has been repeating in my head every night since this album was released. Finally, ‘Mistakenlyplaced’ reminds me of a Glen Hansard song – its melody would have fit beautifully in the soundtrack of Once, and the subject matter – feeling simultaneously separated from and trapped in your home while missing a past lover – furthers that vibe whilst still keeping with the overall tone of the album.
As a recording engineer, I feel that I ought to speak briefly to the sonics of this record. The band recorded it themselves at home, and the final product was mastered by Carl Saff. Especially considering that this is a fairly humble home recording, the production is fantastically balanced – every instrument has its own space, and there’s a very distinct ‘homespun’ kind of quality to it that adds to the intimacy of the quieter songs and makes the more upbeat tracks sound a little bit like the band is playing in your front room.
Overall, this record is like waking up to the sound of rain on a cool autumn day – comfortingly familiar, yet there’s something intangibly beautiful about it. For $8, its an absolute steal. Deadwood Floats are definitely a band to watch, and I can only hope that we don’t have to wait another three years for the next record.
Click here to stream or purchase Three Years on Bandcamp.