If you ever went to a Delta Spirit show, you’d find yourself amongst friends. Maybe not literally, but it always felt that way, communing with strangers and singing loudly, beers sloshing and cheers ringing out whenever a familiar guitar lick would start a new song. It has been five years since the fivesome parted ways, somewhat unofficially. And though that time apart resulted in an impressive and prolific output from each member, that question of a Delta Spirit reunion always hung in the air. Now, the answer to that question has arrived with their first full-length album since 2014, What Is There, and though it’s tough to imagine not being able to celebrate the milestone with a tour, the record is big enough to fill every corner of a room until the time for live music comes again.
With each record, from 2008 to 2014, the band’s sound seemed to get larger, more epic. What Is There continues that progression, with stadium-sized rock and roll and symphonic ballads. To hear them back together is to be reminded of the euphoric, adrenaline-soaked best of Delta Spirit. “The Pressure” opens the album with a shock of electric guitar and a driving drumbeat, Matthew Logan Vasquez’s reedy rasp grabbing us by the hand and jolting us back in. “You got the fire / But you can’t put it out,” he sings. “You can’t fight the feeling when it’s coming around again.” On the airy, melodic “Making Sense,” Vasquez harmonizes his way to clarity in the midst of emotional turmoil. And “Lover’s Heart” injects the power of arena-ready ’80s power pop into a moment of intense heartache and darkness.
Much of What Is There also feels like a reintroduction to Kelly Winrich, whose vocals go toe-to-toe with Vasquez’s, creating a rich sonic contrast. The most affecting example lies in “Just the Same,” the six-minute stunner toward the album’s end. It’s a detailed ballad about the evolution of a relationship, its intimate triumphs and painful reckonings. Winrich lends a soft sweetness to it, maintaining a steady rhythm until it explodes with strings for a dramatic conclusion.
What follows is the album’s title track, a stripped-down acoustic tune sung by Vasquez that feels like a hidden demo, a beautiful secret between friends about the complicated chemistry inherent in collaborating. It is hard not to hear in these songs a sense of longing for each other’s creative companionship, remembering the good times and hoping they’ll resume. “If it’s one more record, let it play on forever,” he sings. “May it remain in our memory / The joy we found in the journey.” Amidst the album’s other songs about the turbulent road warrior lifestyle of being in a band, like the joyous “Home Again” and the raucous groove “It Ain’t Easy,” this one hits different. It is an ode to friendship, with all of its ups and downs.