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Patrick Dethlefs isn’t crippled by self-doubt. But on his new album, the aptly titled Beauty in the Unknown, the 26-year-old devotes a lot of time to contemplating his own reservations. Each song finds Dethlefs struggling to meet expectations that accompany his coming of age, and it seems that only through his music is he able to find sure footing. On Thursday, Dethlefs will play at Hi-Dive in a show that doubles as an album release party.
Dethlefs is native to Kittredge, Colorado, a small town west of Denver, and a place where he says, “You could walk from one end to the next pretty quickly.” It’s tucked away in the mountains, and its population barely cracked 1,000 on the 2010 census. Over the past seven years, he’s been able to solidify himself as a staple of the Denver’s folk/Americana scene, evident by his repeated appearences at the Underground Music Showcase. He’s earned a reputation as a strong, introspective songwriter, and speaks from the heart with verses that seem to resonate with local audiences. On his fourth full-length album, Beauty in the Unknown, Dethlefs and his bandmates ventured to an area much like his hometown to record the album: Hideaway Studios, in Sedalia, Colorado.
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Thanks to what Dethlefs called a “happy accident” in which the studio’s recording program crashed, the album was recorded entirely on an analog system—as opposed to a combination of both analog and digital, as a lot of music is produced today. Some people believe that producing with an analog system keeps the sound more natural and full, which fit perfectly with Dethlefs’ goal to produce an album using mostly live recordings. “I like a lot of older music, such as Neil Young,” he says. “I like how you can almost just imagine yourself being in the room—it seems like they’re just playing, and one of the goals for this album…was to just have fun with friends playing music.”
The result was an album that is, above all else, quaint and heavily endearing. Its opening track, “In the Woods,” sets the tone. In the opening verse he establishes that he has a respite from his apprehension. Warm guitar chords are complemented by a droning pedal steel to make the opening track both gorgeous and serene. “Lay me down or let me go, puttin’ up a fight/Through these eyes, with every smile holdin’ me so tight/Passed the hills under cloudy skies, I found a place to hide,” he sings. For a work that focuses so much on uncertainty, doubt, and confusion, it is a remarkably clear embodiment of the album’s overarching theme.
“I think a lot of the songs are implying a lot of the same thing: It’s about dealing with doubt and growing up or coming of age. There’s a lot of…me reminding myself that it’s going to be OK. But I hope it’s something we can all relate to when it comes to self-doubt or hard times.”
And that’s where we find Dethlefs for the majority of Beauty in the Unknown. Without any hint of resolution, he sits peacefully and offers up this album as an argument for hope.
If you go: Thursday, February 2, doors at 8:30 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.; Hi Dive, 7 S. Broadway; CDs will be available for purchase. The album will be available for streaming on February 10.