Last summer, I caught a Delta Spirit show at The Sinclair, a pretty rad venue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Led by their frontman Matthew Vasquez, the band put on a show that channeled adrenaline on the rockers and bled sentimentalism on the ballads. However, one of the moments that struck me the most was when Vasquez played “Yamaha” on his own. The song features rich synths and keys and is a bare non-cryptic thank you to Vasquez’s wife for sticking around a travelling musician. Just before the song, Vasquez announced that the band was heading home, that it was the last show on tour, and that Delta Spirit would be going on hiatus. Then, with a little pause, he closes his eyes and dramatically shouts, “I’m gonna be a father!”
It lasted four seconds, but those four seconds were pure vulnerability. For a fleeting moment, it felt like Vasquez could’ve cracked. Yet, the show went on and after “Yamaha” he was back to swinging stage props and smashing his guitar.
On his debut solo LP, Solicitor Returns, Matthew Logan Vasquez plays the lone ranger, a slightly forlorn look adorning the cover of the album. Yet bravado isn’t missing. The opening track “Solicitor Returns” is just a curtain raiser of synth chords and bass beats, swarming and crescendoing into “Maria”, a song reminiscent of Neil Young & Crazy Horse with its thick, trembling guitar tone. It then segues into “Personal”, which has Vasquez reminisce about past friends and frenetic times. Perhaps it could be read as an apology note to Delta Spirit but then again, this troubadour has moved from coast to coast, via Texas. While the song sounds the most like Delta Spirit with a bustling rhythm and overarching synths, thematically it resembles “Devil Knows You’re Dead”, with its ode to friendship: “Don’t you get it, it’s not personal. I gotta strike it out on my own. I wish you were with me, but I can’t make that call.”
The rest of the album is full of solid songs. Vasquez also dips into familiar ballad territory on “I Bet It All” and “Black East River”. The former is full of cryptic New York imagery–why, after all, is the East River black?–until the last verse in which he sings “teenage kids, we watched the towers fall”. The guitar solos are befitting in their upward gaze, lilting like carried by a floating helium balloon. There are also nice summer chorus sing-a-longs like “New York” (with a wicked fuzzy guitar build-up that phases out to quiet piano chords).
The rock and roller worshipper Vasquez shines on “Everything I Do Is Out”, his voice breaking as he yells “My little sister got my record collection, they try to tell her it’s a bad direction. But somehow I’m alive today, with Syd Barrett fucking up my brain!” When I listen to his raspy voice, I’m transported back to that show at The Sinclair. Sure, there was that passionate and sometimes mushy singer but there was also that “look”: slightly deranged, full whites of eyes, vein throbbing rocker. The best part? It’s being thoroughly convinced that it’s not for show, that everything you hear is true-to-heart. Folk singer, rock and roller, singer-songwriter: Vasquez is all of the above.
Solicitor Returns is available on from Dine Alone Records.