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"History Speaks" for Deep Sea Diver

Debut album is marked by a lushness of sound

DEEP SEA DIVER: The band gives the listener everything - slow and fast paced tracks. Photo credit: Matt Wignall

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Spindly guitar pricks open up History Speaks, the debut LP from Seattle's Deep Sea Diver. Soon, they're joined by thudding drums, a plaintive voice and, eventually, the kind of lush, full instrumentation that personifies Deep Sea Diver.

The voice belongs to Jessica Dobson, a long-time musical entity in these parts. Deep Sea Diver started as her own solo project, but soon it blossomed into a full-fledged band. "Ships," the aforementioned opening track, sets the plate for the album with the kind of dark, romantic, '80s New Wave sounds that often get overlooked when bands of today deconstruct the decade. These are the kind of songs that could accompany, in equal measure, the experience of finding or losing love. Either way, they are best consumed on long, solo night drives.

Deep feeling runs rampant throughout History Speaks, leaving marks on songs like "Weekend Wars" and "NWO" and running the risk of leaving the listener exhausted. Without pushing it, Dobson's songs are all delicately anthemic in their own way. This feeling of catharsis is what enables a listener to follow these peaks and valleys for an entire album of complicated emotions. The spry instrumentation also helps to perk up the spirit in the face of Dobson's almost too-affecting lyrics and vocals.

Like another up-and-coming act, Santee, Deep Sea Diver deftly makes the tricky transition from solo singer-songwriter to full band with admirable aplomb. The secret, it seems, is to truly welcome collaboration instead of stubbornly refusing. Dobson may have found the perfect collaborator in her husband and Gig Harbor native, Peter Mansen, who mans the drums.

But it's not all intense, here. "You Go Running," with its spiky guitars and shuffling rhythm is an indie-rock gem - inasmuch as indie people are comfortable with dancing, a phenomenon which is still yet to be satisfactorily documented. Elsewhere, "Keep It Moving" is brightened by some jaunty piano, swelling strings and a sing-along refrain.

Since the creation of Deep Sea Diver, Dobson has found herself becoming more and more immersed in music's popular culture: opening for the likes of Conor Oberst and other indie darlings, before eventually becoming a touring member of noted life-changing band, the Shins. Dobson even performed with them when they made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, effectively knocking out what must be a dream to most every musician who's spent far too long separated from the lights and the cameras and the national audience.

As I mentioned earlier, History Speaks is marked by a lushness of sound. Though the band only boasts three permanent members (really, now, two, since the departure of Tacoma native Michael Duggan), somehow the album sounds as polished and pristine as that of a band with seven members and a decade of time under their belt. I suppose what this indicates is just how ready Dobson was to let these songs out into the world.

Soon, along with Hey Marseilles, Deep Sea Diver will be making the trek down to SXSW - that festival down in Texas where journalists, record label executives and music lovers swarm in search of the next amazing band. It's all overwhelming and crass and sweltering and fan-fucking-tastic. Here's to their journey and success. For them, though, History Speaks will say all anyone will need to know about Deep Sea Diver and Jessica Dobson.

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Three's company at Harlequin Productions

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