Rodger Lloyd, performing under the name Deep Cologne describes his debut solo album as sounding like “Spoon and Little Dragon had a baby who wrote a rock opera in 1985.” While you can find traces of both of those artists throughout Heavy Blood, the rock opera aspect is where that assessment really carries water—the album plays out like a patchwork quilt of voices and acts, starting in one place and ending entirely in another, lovingly and cohesively stitched together with an expansive ‘80s thread.
The distinct evocation of ‘80s sounds makes Heavy Blood a hard album to nail down. On one hand, the album sounds a lot like Twin Shadow—but Twin Shadow is similarly steeped in ‘80s reverence, so it's tough to make the distinction between whether the two bands are simply drawing off of the same source material or if Deep Cologne is itself derivative of the ‘80s resurgence of the past half-decade.
There's also a strong chill wave vibe, at least in the first part of the album. While the opener, “Flawless,” starts with ambient noise and a stuttering drum/bass intro that could have been pulled from “Pale Shelter” era Tears for Fears, it quickly fills the room up with a dense, lush synth-organ part and slightly fuzzed out, semi-falsetto vocals sitting a little further back in the mix (similar to Washed Out or M83). The song keeps adding layers and little parts, here and there, so that by the outro-bridge, it's a beautiful and alluring culmination of everything that's come before—and you don't really want it to end.
The second track “Suitcase (ft. Fey Moth)” rightly catapults off of the laid back urgency of the first song, bringing the energy level up and proving to be one of the albums most single-ready tracks. There's a Eurythmics-esque lead riff, frantic and theatric backing “oooohhh's” echoing many a Of Montreal song, while the track as whole has the kind of cool and modern pulse that make Big Data songs so suitable for car commercials.
The album goes in a couple of other directions from there. The track “One Note Song,” carries a simplistic sort of layered decadence akin to Poolside, while the minimally channeled vocal tracks sounds almost like the Stokes. The title track sounds more like late ‘80s U2 than I've heard anybody be bold enough to embrace in some time—but with almost a Handsome Furs flare.
By the end of the album, the Spoon element flushes itself out a little but more clearly. The vocals are much more confidently front and center than the early tracks. The closer “Sugar” finishes things up on a strong note. Again there's a dominant key-part that fills the speakers, top-to-bottom—almost akin to Girls Can Tell, era Spoon, although the overall feel of the track would almost make it sound more at home on their more recent They Want My Soul. Regardless of where it fits into another artist's catalogue, the song really feels like a culmination of those that came before it.
Heavy Blood was self-recorded by Lloyd in his own Seattle studio, Pop Logic Studios. Production value is exceptionally high—every song has little flourishes and background elements that are so well mixed in that you will really appreciate them with a nice pair of headphones and pay attention. The album represents Lloyd's first solo project following the dissolution of his previous band Sweet Secrets.
I can easily recommend this Heavy Blood to fans of modern takes on the ‘80s, chill wave or any of the bands mentioned in this review.
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