Poster and EP artwork by Ian White
Band photo by Loop Photography
Something you gain as you age is an increased knowledge of—and sense of comfort in—yourself. You learn about your strengths, your weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and how to be honest about that, both to yourself and others. More and more, the yearning and uncertainty of young adulthood is tempered with a level head.
Local group LoFi Delphi prove, however, that the raw angst of youth is far from the only compelling muse for the melodic, indie pop-rock sound they’ve cultivated over the past three years (and two EPs.) In the biography on their Facebook page, they themselves ask the question—what becomes of songwriters of this bent when “they find themselves thirtysomething and married?”
Their answer is their new hook-heavy, heart-filled five-song EP, Tilt, which drops this Friday, December 1st. And it turns out, knowing yourself is pretty damn awesome, too.
Their bio goes on, hitting the nail on the head when describing Tilt as “windows-down…sing-along-in-the-car…not-too-cool-to-feel-it” music. If you listen to it multiple times, like I have, it will get stuck in your head. It’s a catchy balance of early emo influences (like Rainer Maria and The Get Up Kids), more modern upbeat rock (like Metric and Tegan and Sara), and undercurrents of deliciously synth-y ‘80’s new wave (like New Order and The Human League.) The appeal of this mixture hasn’t gone unnoticed, either: LoFi Delphi has previously been featured in local festivals, Pittsburgh City Paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and on the radio station 91.3 WYEP.
The band consists of Becki Gallagher on keys and lead vocals, recent addition Andrew MacDonald on guitar and backing vocals, Andrew Belsick on bass, and Tyler Jessup on drums.
Prominent, exuberant keyboard riffs from Gallagher tend to share center stage with her strong, distinct vocals. (And I’m always a sucker for when a woman sings well in a low/alto range, which she does regularly here.) Jessup’s often-driving, usually-intricate drumbeats are solid, complemented by Belsick’s energetic basslines. And MacDonald shows his range with vibrant power chords, fluid fingerpicking, and an excellent choral effect when his voice joins Gallagher’s. They all mix well together, with each member getting their moments to shine, for a balance that reveals their comfort and experience as musicians. And it’s all brought together with frank, genuine lyrics, such as this line from the third song, “Buck:” “We can’t keep playing at this game/where words ring hollow at my door/We can’t pretend to be the same/It just seems empty anymore.”
Another strength of this EP is how well the tracks flow in order. Tilt makes a steady uphill climb, getting stronger with each song. (This is much more satisfying than the alternative.) The opening number, “Phone,” is an energetic tune about seeking closure in an uncertain, yet irresistible, relationship: “And I’ll wait by the phone/It’s so stupid, I know/Please tell me to go/And I’ll leave you alone.” Its stop-start rhythm and a solid key solo by Gallagher are the musical highlights. “Enjoy” brings more minor chords and an 80’s vibe to the table, with driving percussion throughout, and cool overlapping vocal layers in the bridge. Again, it laments a fractured connection: “How can we get back to that first night?/Calling out, without a sound/Will we ever find the truth?” The third track, “Buck,” offers grungier guitars (plus a solo from MacDonald in the bridge) and a bit of a subdued, slower, 2000’s rock feel, which is welcome. Gallagher’s high key riff floats in the background this time, repeating itself over and over. This reflects the repetitiveness of the emotional patterns the speaker is articulating frustration about.
“AimShoot” is more dramatically sad, both musically and lyrically. MacDonald’s guitar favors lower notes and minor chords, and the piano returns to its place as the dominant instrument. This track addresses the exit of someone important, and the fresh hurt of the loss: “How did I let you get away…I won’t forget you, I can’t stand it/I haven’t slept for days.” Though this angst might seem youthful in its passion, the speaker acknowledges her own shortcomings, showing a more mature introspection: “Then something caught my eye/I lost my focus and now I’m chasing down the hands of time.” The final line (“I had you right there in my sights”) repeats and builds in intensity at song’s end, sonically demonstrating the lingering pain and regret. Finally, the EP culminates in its delightfully nuanced title track, “Tilt.” The music takes a more energetic, upbeat turn immediately, though the words still don’t quite agree: “How can I get this through/It’s past the breaking point with you.” But what really makes this song shine is its final half, when everything quiets down and is slowly, layer by layer, built back up again. Shaking bells and high tinkling key riffs evoke a beautiful, almost wintry feel, and Belsick’s bass is used to its most enjoyable potential. I won’t spoil any more; once you hear it, you’ll get what I mean. It’s a satisfying conclusion.
My gripes with this EP are minimal. A pop song isn’t a pop song without a catchy, frequently-repeated hook. But sometimes this repetition was a little too frequent, more so in the first three tracks than the final two. As I listened over and over again (ironically), the hooks’ purpose in the overall sonic landscape of the record became more obvious. (Plus I learned the words, so it was easier to sing along.) Still, at first blush, a slight weariness of certain phrases by the end of songs is possible. And if I’m honest, I’m personally a little more drawn to the darker, moodier sound of their previous release, Always the Quiet Ones. In Tilt (with the notable exception of “AimShoot”), the moodiness is largely found in its vulnerable lyrics.
But then again, I’m only twenty-five. And I can still acknowledge the power and release found when you wrap your worries in mostly-upbeat packaging, and when you play them out on a stage, or sing along to them in your car, with the windows rolled down.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. After a year of both promising growth and undeniable setbacks for the Pittsburgh music scene, Tilt is a solid, encouraging EP to close out 2017.
The release show for Tilt will take place at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls this Friday, December 1st. And the lineup is killer: Wreck Loose, Essential Machine, and The Telephone Line will all be opening up. In a fun (and relevant) twist, there will be a play-for-charity pinball machine at the show, provided by Starport Arcade. The album will also be dropping on the group’s Bandcamp page (and other online music platforms) the same day. You can preview the first track, “Phone,” below, or by clicking here.
Tickets for the release show are $7, and can be purchased here or at the door (while supplies last.) Doors open at 7:30 and the music starts at 8:30. This show is 21+. Check out the event page here and keep up with LoFi Delphi here.