Detroit retro soul band Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas are on a roll. Maybe because they’ve been on the road a lot lately, maybe because recording in a real studio rather than on somebody’s protools in a bedroom somewhere is so expensive, they’ve been putting out single tracks and ep’s instead of working on a magnum opus. Their latest ep is appropriately called Demons: it’s as noir as noir soul music gets, and it’s luridly delicious. The whole thing is streaming at- believe it or not – Paste.
The title track is a false start, a good song masked by cliched, corporate production, a tentative misstep toward Dr. Luke territory. You hear this and you ask yourself, what in the world were they thinking? They’re such purists, and this is so far from that. But the rest of the songs are scary-good, starting with Caught Up. Hernandez has a distinctive voice that can be sweet and gently cajoling one second, but the next she’s flashing you the boxcutter up her sleeve. This one has a defiant feel. And it’s more of a dark garage rock song, sort of a cross between Clairy Browne and Sallie Ford, with an ominous bridge where the drums get mysterious and boomy, then a snarling guitar solo.
Big Town is noir to the core. It starts out with a simple bass/piano/baritone sax intro and builds from there to a gorgeously wounded turnaround, Hernandez glad that she has such a big city where she can hide away in her misery. The Hawaiian guitar solo out is completely bizarre, and just as creepy. Shadow Boy seems to be a darkly comforting shout-out to quiet, sad people whose lives are more interior than exterior; the band stalks almost imperceptibly up to an allusive ba-BUMP rhythm, lit up with apprehensive repeaterbox guitar and Hernandez’ lingering vocals. The last song is a pulsing, minor-key number where Hernandez’ character is so hot to trot that she’s been sleeping with somebody’s girlfriend AND somebody’s boyfriend – she delivers this news as a come-on over a creepy funeral organ groove that takes a detour into reggae for awhile. There are a ton of bands rehashing mid-60s soul sounds, but none of them sound anything like Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas. Even with that dud of a first track, this is one of the best short albums of the year.