When a musician drops out, puts his guitars away, and spends a month or so traipsing around India singing in Hindu temples—as Shaky Hands lead singer Nick Delffs did earlier this year—that artist’s ensuing recordings are bound to be plagued by certain preconceptions. Butchered bhajans, sitars, finger cymbals—you know … pretentious Beatles stuff.

Which is why listeners may be shocked by how red-blooded and American the Shaky Hands’ third album, Let It Die, (out today!!) sounds. If Delffs was looking for spirituality in India, it seems he spent the majority of his time studying at the feet of a guru who was channeling Elvis Costello—the album’s rollicking pianos, hoarsely yelped vocals, and jangling guitars echo the band’s past work. But, that said, Delffs’s journey through India has left a recognizable mark.

His lyrics are more direct than on previous albums; less concerned with the often guarded confines of the skinny-jean set—“You’re all I have, there’s no one else,” he warbles on “Gonna Hold You Tonight”—planting a solid through-line of gravity beneath the good-time romping. When Delff does slip in a few fuzzy bhajans—on the album’s last track, “Leave It All”—it’s done in such a broken, world-weary manner that it takes the entire band bashing away to lift him from his stupor. In the end he’s saved not by Eastern religion … but by rock ’n’ roll.

Download the song Allison and the Ancient Eyes

Note: The Shaky Hands play an album release show at Berbati’s Pan this Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

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