Two years after teaming up with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit to create Middle Brother, John McCauley of Deer Tick was faced with a difficult task – writing an album that could appeal to both die-hard Deer Tick fans and the new barrage of fans gained from his side project.

The most notable post-Middle Brother change in Deer Tick’s sound is McCauley’s voice. Whereas classic Deer Tick albums have McCauley shredding tin cans in his throat to hit each note, Negativity balances the singer’s signature, whiny growl with some studio magic EQ and subtle double tracking. Even during heavier tracks like “Pot of Gold,” which has McCauley screaming for five minutes straight, the singer’s voice remains relatively accessible and radio friendly. As well, the backing vocals take a much stronger role in the album, with secondary melodies layered over many of McCauley’s lines.

For the most part, the increased studio presence on the record is welcome – Negativity’s opening track “The Rock” explodes with layers of alt-country energy never heard before on a Deer Tick album. However, some tracks leave me wishing I could strip away all of the additional back-line instruments and experience the songs live off the floor.

By John Rollett

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