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Spins: Tuff Sunshine • Dig Deeper, Peanut

| June 11, 2020

Tuff Sunshine

Dig Deeper, Peanut

(Declared Goods)

Brooklyn’s Johnny Leitera returns with his second full-length LP under the Tuff Sunshine banner. Dig Deeper, Peanut shows no sign of a sophomore slump, and why would it? Leitera proved his songwriting mettle with Low Water before stretching out for a pair of pseudo-solo EPs and 2015’s celebrated full-length offering Fire in the Hero Building. Songs like “We Seal Every Deal with a Kiss” are framed by the rough-hewn energy of the Violent Femmes and expose raw emotional nerves a la Eels. “Like the other leeches, I’m here to blood-let,” sings Leitera with murderous intent during “Move a Mountain.” It’s a lo-fi Detroit-styled rocker that cribs from the bristling blast of the Stooges’ Fun House while chugging like Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.” The song’s character may be a powder keg, but he’ll get the job done. “When you hire me to move a mountain, I make sure it’s gone,” promises Leitera. A dose of New York soul is added during “Two Kids in the City.” “Sister Fader” is a garage-rock stomper with a caveman beat from drummer Ani Cordero and Leitera’s snaky guitar lead. More vipers appear during grim riff-rocker “Sunday Means Snakes.” Leitera sounds like he’s desperate for survival and simultaneously hell-bent on destruction while tackling his private “mission: impossible.” “I need the rest of my life, or maybe a little longer,” sings Leitera against heavy and hypnotic drums. The title cut “Dig Deeper, Peanut” rides a Stax-styled Memphis soul-rock groove with a gliding bass line from Turner Stough that would have done Duck Dunn proud. “Sleepwalking” is another slice of heart-on-sleeve soul-pop. The band’s DIY aesthetic leaves your imagination to fill the space of an R&B horn section, but the shimmering organ and Leitera’s tremolo guitar will stand the hairs on the back of your neck. The record returns to glam-rock and post-punk territory for “Mask Away.” The song’s stripped-back arrangement suggests the minimalist rock of Spoon joined by Keith Richards. You can add bass and drums at home. “I can’t get much sweeter without falling off the vine,” sings Leitera while counting his curses during the beatific acoustic strummer “Woe is Me.” The album concludes with a summery left turn with the blissful pop of “Buttercup,” featuring lead vocal by Cordero. With ample variety across ten songs and not a dud among them, a live set built around these tracks in an intimate room like the Empty Bottle or Schuba’s Tavern would set ears tingling and lead many to dig deeper, indeed.

– 8 of 10

Jeff Elbel

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Category: Columns, Monthly, Spins

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