Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Nicholas Delffs tends to routinely sound as if he's living in a beat-down, as if he's got deep, deep bruises pocking his body, which is surprisingly still functioning and upright. It could be believed though that all of the smacks and thwacks that he absorbs in his tender torso and its bones are more phantom than anything. It's not that they're not real, but their force and their repercussions are more mental and just leave those bitter tingles. They can be masked almost completely through either this method or that method, but there's really no coverage available for saddened eyes. And as that can be said, there's no hiding when those eyes become less sad and because they're connected to everything else, this is often a major alteration as the sparks and vitality can worm back into a person, hesitating for nothing. Delffs and his band from Portland, Oregon, The Shaky Hands find ways to get us thinking about how it's easier to "love in the cold," as they're active participants in that very same thing. Delffs has a voice that is so shaggy dog and mountain man-log-splitter that it walks around with the smell of pine needles and unkempt hair upon its head and he uses it to so expertly convey the life and actions of man (or many men and women) who splash around a lot, tirelessly working to keep their heads above water. He sounds as if he's been a famished and downtrodden soul since as long as he can remember, always needing a break and a warm bed to just lie down in for a day or two, to charge the batteries. On "Love Curse," Delffs sings, "I've been weary and warm out, just like everyone else," and yet he seems to feel it more. He seems to have abandoned many of his desires to see if there is an exit out of all of this wreckage. He seems to have decided rather firmly that he's just going to continue going without sleep because it's become such a friend, moved on from its burdensome status long ago. Within the guitarist and singer still seems to beat the heart of a man who strongly believes in potential goodness, though it might just be as seen in others. Though there are hints that a chemistry or the right combination of elements could make something to cherish, even if it's fleeting. He seems to write songs that believe in wholesome though completely, frustratingly unpredictable pure love. It falls in and out of time, and in and out of focus without warning, just ruthlessness. It leaves behind these potent trails and negatives that can still be seen in vivid states when we close our eyes and have the black backs of our eyelids as screens. Delffs looks at those images and pays tribute to them with new beauty - making the thuds and the scratchy eyes feel more like embraces, galvanizing a tired man to keep struggling on because sometimes that struggle can be redefined.
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