• Amy

ALBUM REVIEW: Deaf Havana - The Present is a Foreign Land


I first discovered Deaf Havana back in 2009 around the time they released "Meet Me Halfway At Least" every festival I went to they were playing and in the space of 18 months I must have seen them live at least 10 times. I thought they were great (“Nicotine and Alcohol Saved My Life” has become the soundtrack to every failed relationship since) and they always felt special being local Norfolk lads but it wasn't until "Fools and Worthless Liars", the first record that left behind their Post Hardcore roots that something truly clicked. I played the album non-stop, every day for at least a year. It was the soundtrack to a really shit time. It both helped me channel angst and not feel so alone. It blew me away from the first listen and is easily one of my all-time top 25 albums. Since then I've listened to all the new records but they've always fallen short. I felt Deaf Havana had peaked early on and were never going to achieve the level of perfection they had with "Fools and Worthless Liars" again. That was until I heard "The Present is a Foreign Land" what an album!


Let's start by saying I don't think I'm nearly a good enough writer to fully convey how magnificent this album is. I also apologise now if my review doesn't talk too much about technical stuff and composition, for me, that's not important with this album. With "The Present is a Foreign Land" is about how the record made me feel, how the words spoke to me and how in 45 short minutes my emotions went on a roller coaster ride.


I went into this album not knowing what to expect. There's only one member of the original line-up left, vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Veck-Gilodi who has now been joined by his brother Matthew on lead guitar and backing vocals. As per my previous comments, I didn't think the last three albums had been anything special so I was expecting more of the same or maybe even a sold-out pop sound that seems so common as bands careers progress and members leave. Thankfully my caution was misplaced and I was bowled over with what I got. It was the first album to move me in a deep, profound way since The Wonder Years' 2018 "Sister Cities" album.


"The Present is a Foreign Land" offers topics of hopelessness, fear, addiction, love and loss, and the feeling you're living in the past still chasing teenage dreams. It's about not fully accepting the years are ticking by. Feeling like you're stationary while the world is going on around you. It's full of angst and emotion, relatability and passion. Feeling like a child wrapped in a grown adult's body. Every song brought goosebumps and every song made me feel deep emotions. It’s an intense listen wrapped in a melodic, catchy shell with killer choruses and musical excellence.


While I think "Fools and Worthless Liars" had more standout tracks such as "Hunstanton Pier" this record is more rounded. Every song with the potential to be a single.


My favourite on the album is "Nevermind .'' This one brought tears to my eyes with its acoustic start building into an epic sound of desperation. It reminded me of the aforementioned "Hunstanton Pier." It might not beat how great that track is but it's pretty damn close. I found the line "I don't believe in God, so I don't have a chance at redemption" very hard-hitting and poignant. Whilst the words appear to be about coping with a lost love they could also lend themselves to being about learning to cope after the loss of anyone close. It's a song that I connected with on every level. I clocked up numerous back-to-back plays because it's just that good.


"Someone/Somewhere" which features IDER is a more electronic, almost trance dreamlike offering which works and the two voices compliment each other beautifully. It tackles the fear of being alone, dealing with demons and being haunted by the past, themes that are present throughout the record as they have been in previous albums too.


There's also a persistent theme in all Deaf Havana's offering drinking too much and drinking to forget.


Another particularly hard-hitting track is "19Dreams" which talks about growing up and realising you're still chasing the same dreams you had as a kid not having achieved what you set out to. As the years pass by I think this is something so many of us can relate to.


While it's short and sweet "Porcari Street" hits home with words about having to leave a place you call home because you can no longer afford to live there, which couldn't be more relevant at the moment.


"Going Clear" tackles the subject of drugs and how you do things thinking you're with your real friends, however all the time all the life you're living is achieving is to alienate you from the people who do care.


The whole album hits deep. It's near flawless lyrically. There isn't a bad song, not even one where I felt the need to prematurely skip to the next. The lads have done good and produced a faultless record.


Musically there's acoustic, electronica, out and out rock with big riffs and big vocals. Every song could fill a stadium. My words can't possibly do the record justice you need to hear it for yourself. I think the only thing that will stop this from being my album of the year is The Wonder Years "The Hum Goes On Forever." The lads are on fire, most would have given up with so many band members leaving for James and Matthew it seems to have ignited the fire even more! For now “The Present is a Foreign Land” is my album of the year by miles.