Psychedelic rock artist Morgan Delt is drenched in sunshine and synths in his latest release, “Phase Zero.”
Much like its swirling cover art suggests, Morgan Delt’s sophomore album “Phase Zero” is the quintessential psychedelic pop record, with a clear focus on the imagery and influence of sunlight. Released on Aug. 26, the album captures the fading sound of summer, transitioning listeners from the lazy warmth of the season to the cooler tone of autumn with incredible ease.
Delt is signed to Sub Pop Records, a label characterized by its grungy style, and he is known for his home recording, which explains the cozy, lo-fi quality of his music. His soft, whispering vocals are another key to his trademark sound and blend effortlessly with the background instrumentals and heavy synthesizers that are evocative of another decade. The retro quality of Delt’s recording pairs well with the album’s electronic instrumentation, giving the psychedelic music a more grounded, natural feel.
“Phase Zero” opens with one of its best tracks, “I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside,” a sentiment that is perhaps all-too-familiar as summer draws to a close. Its hazy opening notes brim with both tranquility and hope — accentuated by relaxed synthesizers — before culminating on a more climactic, electrified note. This track is reminiscent of rock band The Coral’s cheery hit, “In the Morning,” albeit less folksy. Combined with the mellow feel of electronic music contemporary Dan Deacon, a general atmospheric mood pervades the entire album.
In contrast, the penultimate track, “Escape Capsule,” offers a soothing melody and essentially acts as a filler track. While the song is pleasantly calm and melodic, it lacks the same sense of vibrancy and catchiness that makes the opening piece stand out.
While still worth a listen, the end result is rather forgettable. Another weak spot is “Mssr. Monster,” an inventive, if slightly cacophonous, number. Featuring a heavy backtrack reminiscent of science-fiction movies, the song is filled with low, frantic chants and random notes that render it an unpleasant listen.
The album’s eighth track, “The Lowest of the Low,” is ironically one of its highlights. Though not immediately striking, this piece sees Delt at his most psychedelic, fusing shuddering vocals, sung as if through a ceiling fan, and echoing bass to produce some of the album’s most melancholic notes that reveal more depth with every listen.
Closing out the album is “Some Sunsick Day,” an airy piece about rebirth and natural beauty. The dreaminess of the song is represented well by its music video: a kaleidoscopic dreamscape filled with computer-generated imagery that is both romantic and surreal. In fact, the aesthetic elements of the video are exactly what one might imagine while listening to the album.
Deviating from the edgier sound of his eponymous debut record, “Morgan Delt,” Delt successfully evades the stereotype of the “sophomore slump.” While its tracks are notably less distinctive than those of its predecessor, much of “Phase Zero” seems to meld together, and its resulting sound is far more unified and harmonious.
“Phase Zero” is the auditory equivalent of a blazing summer sunset, and the album is a solid addition to the ever-innovative Los Angeles alternative music scene. While Delt’s vocals are not particularly unique, they reverberate quietly in each piece, letting his instrumental mastery of the pop-rock genre shine.
The first and final songs on this album are standouts — amalgamations of the earthy and the synthetic. However, other tracks fluctuate between forgettable and overdone.
Though Delt is less thorough in exploring his lyrical message, leaving room for improvement in future works, he remains true to his psychedelic sound while continuing to head toward a bright future.
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