In the five years since the last album from The Deslondes, two members of the fivesome, Sam Doores and Riley Downing, have spread their wings as solo artists. And whatever lessons were learned amid that hiatus are evident on the band’s reunion release, Ways & Means. More so than on past records, Doores’ smooth tone and Downing’s growling drawl blend together seamlessly as they trade off lead vocal duties song to song. All the while, the band’s familiar hazy front-porch swagger remains intact to tie it all together.
The varying of lead singers in The Deslondes isn’t new, but it feels different this time, like Ways & Means is the output of some supergroup. From one song to the next, the album keeps you on your toes. Maybe you’ll get the groovy twang of Doores-fronted “Howl at the Moon” or the woozy Downing-led slow-burner “South Dakota Wild One.” Or perhaps it’ll be the stoner-pop ode to self-improvement “Five Year Plan,” the sax-soaked shuffler “Good to Go,” the sunny ’50s bop “Bound by Love,” or moony, hopeful closer “Hero.” Distilling all their ideas down to 14 tracks was a real group effort, one helped along by longtime collaborator Andrija Tokic and a solid understanding of how best to work together this time around.
The band credits fellow bandmate John James with bringing them all back together in an uncertain time for musicians, and in some ways, Ways & Means sounds like no time has passed. But mostly The Deslondes seem more in sync than ever, even as they stretch across rootsy Americana, ’70s psych, lo-fi garage rock, and some good old country-western. Ways & Means represents a more adventurous and experimental version of The Deslondes, like each member of the group brought something fresh to the table. The deftness with which they morph and touch each sonic corner of their universe makes the album go down easy.
Ways & Means is out July 8 on New West Records.