Cigarettes burn in the moonlight. Necklaces bang against bare chests. And on their triumphant fifth album Poetry, Dehd transports us to a world steeped in imagery. It’s a world painted in the sunset tones of summer romance and flickering old flames. It’s motorcycle chrome (“Mood Ring”), it’s fake Gucci Sunglasses (“Dog Days”), and it’s shaking hands before a swaying lover (“Hard to Love”). Across fourteen songs, the trio–Jason Balla, Emily Kempf, and Eric McGrady–throw themselves against the question of what it means to hope, knowing all too well that things end and hearts can break. “You can’t beat death, but you can beat death in life,” wrote Charles Bukowski and upon listening to this album it’s obvious the band has chosen to attempt the latter.

After hitting a stride with their 2020 breakout record Flower of Devotion, followed by their radiant Fat Possum debut Blue Skies in 2022, Dehd did something different. They turned a writing session into a road trip. With a van full of recording equipment they headed to Kempf’s off-grid Earthship in New Mexico where they chopped wood to keep warm and worked for as long as the solar panels held a charge. They then traveled north to a borrowed cabin surrounded by the chilly waters of the Puget Sound, where the hours were marked only by the movement of the tide. On the way back to Chicago for their final writing session at the warehouse they’ve called home for over a decade, Balla and McGrady became stranded for days in rural Montana after hitting a deer and abandoning their van. This tireless sense of adventure, both internal and external, has become a trademark of Dehd over the years. “Eating, sleeping, breathing—our only purpose was to write,” Kempf recalled. And it seems in this place of quiet focus Dehd have achieved their most honest and vulnerable writing yet.

In the studio they tapped Ziyad Asrar (of Whitney) to co-produce alongside Balla, marking their first time collaborating with someone outside of the band for the recording process. With the addition of Asrar the emotional landscape of the record is vividly rendered, at times confessional and others anthemic, vocals bared, up front with the confidence of a band that knows the power of their words.

No one writes about love quite like Dehd, and on Poetry, they somehow make even heartbreak sound inviting. In the swirl of budding new relationships and lingering breakups, their lyrics find themselves at once exalting love and then turning to doubt it. Examining their own self-defeating habits. “I let myself get in the way, turning every thought to jealousy,” admits Balla on “Light On,” “But was it worth losing a home?” On “Pure Gold,” Kempf excavates her feelings for another woman–and while writing the song found Kempf confronting years of internalized heteronormativity, she writes about a sapphic love that feels almost too perfect for Dehd: “Easy breezy. Ooh yeah we laugh so freely,” she sings, embodying the liberated joy of a new crush.

“Everyone I know is breaking hearts tonight,” Balla howls on “Dog Days”, “Everyone I know is bleeding, but I know we’ll be alright.” This restless optimism is uniquely Dehd and speaks to their career of confronting the messy duality of life and love. On Poetry the band conjures a world as if through the eyes of Leonard Cohen or the camera lens of Wong Kar-wai. There’s a darkness, but not a bleakness as they explore self-love, feminism and friendship with rare candor. “Dist B,” based on a trying emotional experience Kempf had in Copenhagen, frames a breakdown as a cry for help: “What will it take for you to see me?” she asks. On “Knife,” she takes aim at the patriarchy— “the closest thing to a political song that I’ll probably ever write”— and shoots to kill: “It’s a matter of time and I’ll be free,” she sings, while the old guard counts their days: “You’re outdated. You mean nothing.”

The album Poetry represents a journey as vast and nuanced as the American landscape Dehd traveled to write it. It culminates on the scorching closer “Forget,” a breakup song transformed into mantra. “How could I forget?” Balla laments as distorted guitars burn like the last embers of the day. It’s fitting that the final words of the album come in the form of a question, because as Dehd would have us see it, we have a choice: to play it safe or to risk it all and live life like Poetry.

Poetry is out May 10th on Fat Possum Records.