When you look at the history of modern music, it seems that the second album is always where bands make it or break it. You can either slide into oblivion with a mediocre effort, or you can establish yourself as a mainstay with a certified hit. Listening to Calendar Days, I think that Dick Diver is going the latter route, branching out from their already solid established sound into broader territory that’s supremely rewarding.
While their first album was filled with twinkling guitar pop, “Blue & That” opens the album with a different agenda. There’s not even a guitar on this track; you’ll find a synthesized drum track and horns. It’s a statement track, especially when considering it’s song placement. Dick Diver is growing up, and with that, their sound aims to progress as well. Still, the bright guitar pop isn’t gone completely, as you’ll notice in the following track, “Alice.” For me, the guitar sound reigns supreme on this number from the get go. It creates a swinging element that will have you smiling while you tap your toes.
It’s difficult to follow-up a statement track and a gem with another hit, but that’s just what happens on Calendar Days when the group hits their stride with the album’s title track. Steph Hughes takes center stage here, bringing in a more innocent vocal to the realm. Guitars twang and drums push the pace forward; I particularly like when the whole gang joins in to accompany Steph’s vocals. It all leads you up to what I think is the definitive track from Dick Diver, “Water Damage.” There’s a dueling guitar sound, stemming from some slide guitar and the group’s typical jangling bright guitar work. You throw that in with a trading back and forth between male and female vocal parts, and it’d be hard for anyone not to fall for this number. And, if you’re reading along, that’s 4 for 4; quite a feat.
There’s something about this album that allows you to really get lost in the music. “Two Year Lease” is one of the tunes that I’ve found myself gravitating towards as I’ve listened more and more. It’s probably the least musical track on the record, but I actually like that approach, as the trading vocal parts are really worthy of letting your heart (and ears) drift. But in just a few tracks, you’ll get one of the more upbeat tunes from the record by way of “Bondi 98.” It’s got a guitar that rings brightly and the vocal delivery adds a purity to the guitar pop the band have created this go round. It’s a casual jam, but in that casual cool sort of way that we’ve all come to find endearing. These are just a few more of the great songs that fill up this entire record.
Sure, some might say that Calendar Days is a touch to unfocused, but I think that would be an unfair assertion. Yes, the band are trying some new things out, and some new styles, but in doing so, they’re successful, which leaves the door wide open for future songwriting. It’s clear after spending days with this album that Dick Diver can write great songs, so only time will tell just how far they will go. One thing’s for sure, no matter what formula they choose to pursue (or all of the above), it’s going to be a joyous listen.