[ACOUSTIC WORLD-POP] The disconnect between the band name "Death Songs" and the sunny, celebratory music made under the moniker is something not lost on Nick Delffs. The instantly recognizable Death Songs godhead—his celebrated rock band the Shaky Hands has been moved to the back burner for the time being, or perhaps for good—addresses the name in biographical materials included with the new EP: "I called it Death Songs because there's always that possibility that the next song I write would be my last,â he says.
The seven jangly, percussive songs on the Death Songs EP are evidence of this embrace and acceptance of death as a part of life. When Delffs doesn't explicitly explore the subject of mortality—as he does on the Kinksian opener "Let This Body Go" and the sprawling and poetic "Water in the Eyes of Man"—he is poking at it from afar (on the Latin-tinged "Ophelia," with its spooky Astral Weeks guitarwork) or meditating on life's bounty (on the slow-churning but bouncy "Saw Everything").
It makes for a compelling collection of mostly acoustic tunes—one that begs for listener participation in the clapping and singing departments after a couple familiarizing listens—that exchanges the Shaky Hands' rockouts for subtle harmonies and some of Delffs' finest songwriting to date. When Death Songs embraces the calamitous and organic elements that set it apart from Delffs' better-known group—as it does on "So Deadly," a song boiling with unconventional percussion; and "Remain in Love Straight to the End," a breathless album-closer that switches from West African polyrhythms to smart ballad at its halfway point—Death Songs is entirely vital and even inspirational. There are, though, those other times on the Death Songs EP, times when we're left waiting for the guitar solo. In those rare moments, I'm moved to say a little prayer: "Praise be unto Death Songs, but God save the Shaky Hands."