Jessica Hernandez/Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Telephone [Slipcase] * CD

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Jessica Hernandez/Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Telephone [Slipcase] * CD. Personnel: Jessica Hernandez (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, percussion, background vocals); John Raleeh (guitar, trombone, percussion); Mike Krygier (guitar); Taylor Pierson (piano, organ, keyboards); Eric Hoegemeyer (synthesizer, percussion); Steve Stetson (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Eric Hoegemeyer.
Recording information: Deep Sea Soundsystem, Brooklyn; Rust Belt Studios, Royal Oak, MI; The Orchard Studios, NYC.
Photographer: Nicholas Williams .
Telephone is the Anglo half of Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas' sophomore long-player. Its counterpart, Teléfono, offers the same songs recorded in Spanish, sounds remarkably different, and is available separately. The doubling isn't a gimmick. Hernandez -- who grew up on Detroit's Southwest side, which has a large Latino population -- and the Deltas spent a great deal of time touring their 2014 debut, Secret Evil, across the American Southwest, encountering a large number of Latin fans. Simply put, Hernandez wanted to create an album that served both sides of her fan base. Shockingly, Richard Gotteher's Instant Records label backed her decision. (Hernandez doesn't compromise; she left Blue Note when she couldn't release the album she wanted to.) A pair of bilingual albums is only one of the firsts evidenced here. Others include her working with a co-producer -- veteran Eric Hoegemeyer (Inner City, Dennis Coffey), who also acts as a seventh member by adding synths and percussion to several tracks. She also invited her bandmates to aid in the writing process, which she had never done before. Another guest here is former Big Chief guitarist Phil Durr, who plays on two songs.
Hernandez placed the album's two singles --"Run Too Far" and "Hot to Trot" -- near the end of the record because she could; both are great songs, but they aren't necessarily the strongest ones here. Opener "Bombay," with its fuzzy three-note riff and distorted bassline, channels '60s garage pop in an urgent tale of cautionary love and dread. Its catchy melody is buoyed by a buggy-whip snare and fat tom-toms, resulting in an infectious dance number. The title track offers a snaky rock-cum-soul melody woven into a stew of cumbia rhythms, dubwise effects, and trombones. It's followed by the organ-and-bass-driven "Hummingbird." This is another passionate, hard-bitten love song with a notched-tight hook. Hernandez seamlessly stitches garage rock, funky brass, and reverb-laden psych to an unforgettable chorus. "Bad at Loving Lou," like "Bombay," offers another look at the complexities of love in modern relationships. Its lyrics are nearly harrowing, but wrapped in popping rock and Latin rhythms, punchy brass, swirling organ, and buzzing guitars, the fingerpop quotient compensates for its taut emotions. That's the beauty of Telephone in a nutshell, and what it shares with lots of Latin music: While the lyric content is often sobering, the music creates a welcome tension because it is almost always danceable. Hernandez & the Deltas' signature sound -- beat-conscious girl group pop, retro psych, rave-up garage rock, funk, soul, and new wave wrapped in increasingly skillful songwriting -- is particularly suited to this juxtaposition. (Check the new wave B-52s nod in single "Hot to Trot," which adds yet another dimension by sampling the Selda Bagcan recording of "Yaylalar.") The band's addition of Latin rhythms and sub-melodies amid more canny production delivers a more diverse and kinetic outing than Secret Evil. Telephone also displays a growing maturity without sacrificing the energy that made this band special in the first place. Killer. ~ Thom Jurek


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