Album Review: Deaf Havana – The Present Is A Foreign Land

The Breakdown

Clearly as brothers, there’s a strong chemistry between both members and with similar life experiences to boot, the storytelling of the album creates a polished production.

Deaf Havana, a British alternative rock band, are set to release their sixth studio album ‘The Present Is A Foreign Land’ on the 15th July. Their new album follows on from their previous album release ‘Rituals’ from 2018 with the key difference being that this release is only by select members of the band, James and Matty Veck-Gilodi, following the departure of the previous members of the band, Tom Ogden and Lee Wilson.

Having described their previous album, Rituals, as them “trying to write pop hooks and rip off Justin Bieber songs”, this album sees the band writing from a place of joy and writing songs for themselves rather than to appease others, noting that a recurring theme within this album is alienation and distance from everything.

Back in January 2020 the band was in a very different place, with them agreeing to split after a short tour to fulfil financial obligations. After being forced to cancel due to COVID, the band looked to get these gigs back up and running once restrictions were lifted with brothers Matty and James both in a better place after overcoming their alcohol struggles. Matty had written several tracks during lockdown and hoped to release ’19 Dreams’ as a “farewell song”. Time in the studio however reignited passions and within 3 weeks they had an album. Unfortunately, with Tom and Lee not being available to return, Matty and James decided to continue as a duo.

So far this year, Deaf Havana have headlined the Rock Sound Stage at Slam Dunk Festival to a packed out crowd and are also set to headline Burn It Down Festival in September. With a run of intimate gigs planned to promote the new album, in November they will be back out on the road for their headline tour.

Unlike previous albums, ‘The Present Is A Foreign Land’ sees the band experiment more with their genre. The 2017 album ‘All These Countless Nights’ would have seen them as rock and ‘Rituals’ explored the pop genre, however this album explores further genres with the inclusion of the ambient dance track ‘Someone/Somewhere’. Featuring the duo, IDER from London, this ‘out of the ordinary’ track that Deaf Havana have included in contrast to their previous music shows their willingness to be flexible with fans and produce music that their fans wouldn’t normally hear. 

Personal experiences in the form of hard hitting lyrics have found their way into the album with Matty describing this album as a more “adult record”. The album has sparked much optimism with James believing this album to be the “Best thing we’ve ever written” as well as hoping that the lyrics connect with people and help them if they’re in a low period, with the ultimate message being “Things can get better”.

Having already released 4 tracks from the album (Nevermind, On The Wire, Kids and Going Clear), fans are treated to an additional 8 tracks. The album opens with ‘Pocari Sweat’ an intro track featuring the lyrics ‘I was on a bridge in Singapore thinking of jumping’, powerful and emotive lyrics for an opener and sets the tone for an album which contains some pretty dark lyrics throughout.

Second track, ’19 Dreams’, is a fast-paced song with a catchy chorus. Written by Matty in 2019, it’s about how Matty questioned his teenage dreams and the messy reality that followed, with the track being described by himself as a “Euphoric slab of rock’n’roll”. “I put you through hell” talks of their previous experiences with alcohol and the effects it has had on the people around them and is a throwback to a more rock sounding vocal with upbeat drum and guitar backing alongside interlude piano.

The next track in the album is ‘Nevermind’ which was released earlier this year under an EP track featuring a few other songs on there from the new album as well. The track, by James, is about the end of 2019/ start of 2020 which he has described as the lowest point of his life and decided to channel his emotions into the lyrics. The song is stripped back and acoustic with mainly keys and strings as James wanted to “really let the lyrics come through” and to ultimately let them be heard rather than listening to the backing instruments. Additionally, this was the second song to be written for the album with this being James’ favourite song of the album and hopes that fans will connect with the lyrics and the song.

Continuing the album with ‘On the Wire’, ‘Trying Falling’, ‘Someone/Somewhere’ and ‘Help’, the first two songs tending to follow a similar pattern whereby they begin slower and end slower, the other two tracks are a stark contrast with ‘Someone/Somewhere’ being the dance track that seems random among this album, as well as ‘Help’ beginning with brass instruments and much more percussion being heard in this song compared to others on this album. ‘On the Wire’ was the first song that Matty and James wrote after being separated for a year and was the indication for them to continue as Deaf Havana. The song is about finding the strength to make positive changes in your life despite it not being easy with Matty commenting that it’s about “finding the hope that you can change for the better” with the lyrics tending to be more optimistic. This track has a really catchy chorus that will end up stuck in your head the more you hear it!

Emotionally vulnerable track ‘Help’ is followed up with title track ‘The Present Is A Foreign Land’, which was written by Matty and is about “not knowing where [he] fits in the world”. The synth intro and guitar riff kicks straight in, leading to an infectious hook and has the capacity to be a real crowd pleaser.

The last three tracks of the album are ‘Kids’, ‘Going Clear’ and ‘Remember Me’. ‘Kids’ follows a similar theme to ‘Someone/Somewhere’ and follows the genre of dance but also explores elements of synth and pop. The sentimental track has been described by James as being a “retrospective romance with our younger years” with it being a nostalgic song about growing up in boring coastal towns and what the people they grew up with are doing now. ‘Going Clear’ mainly involves guitar and drums and is the type of song where if performed live people would be holding their phone torches in the air and swaying to the evocative lyrics. The song concerns James’ ongoing battle with addiction and the effect it has on loved ones and family members. James said of the song that it is “straight forward and simple… but having gone through years of substance abuse and seen the pain it brings first hand, this one really hits home”. ‘Going Clear’ is probably the song that would be most recognisable as being Deaf Havana.

The final song of the album, ‘Remember Me’, brings in a new dimension with the use of a choir during latter half of the track and bookmarking the album to finish on a more hopeful ending. Starting with strong synth melody and repetitive guitar riff the final song on the album ends both uplifting and quite emotional in terms of atmosphere.

Unsurprisingly, as a newly formed duo this album leans heavily on strong vocals and guitar, but still manages to have a range of musical support both instrumentally and with added harmonies from both a choir and female vocals. As a more stripped back album, this gives space for the evocative often dark lyricism to shine through. Whilst retaining some elements of the previous album ‘Rituals’ the band have merged some of the more successful synth elements with the alt-rock basics that got them the fanbase they currently have. James’s raspy vocal guides the song through to the often up-tempo chorus whilst Matty’s melodic riffs add a real sense of haunting depth to the tracks. Clearly as brothers, there’s a strong chemistry between both members and with similar life experiences to boot, the storytelling of the album creates a polished production.

The album is released is on 15th July and can be purchased here.

Previous Blu-Ray Review: Tenebrae
Next News: Stick To Your Guns share new single and video for 'Hush'

1 Comment

  1. […] the release of their new album ‘The Present Is A Foreign Land’ (see our album review here), tonight sees Deaf Havana perform a stripped back acoustic set as one of a number of planned […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.