Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

Rating: ★★★★☆

Last year, Dum Dum Girls released I Will Be, an album filled with noise pop riffs and all the girl power you could possibly pack into a single album. This album launched these girls into the fame of the indie-sphere, forever allowing them to be of buzz worthy status. On this sophomore album, they look to branch off a little from their power pop to a more dimensional sound, as to show their diversity.

With so many of the members of this band in various other acts, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their sound has matured in nature since their last release. It seems as if each lady gained some experience from their individual projects that allowed their collective dreamy pop to feel tighter knit. The first song is “Always Looking,” which kicks things off on a jamming note from the instant it begins. At two minutes and twenty-one seconds, Dum Dum Girls waste no time ad jump straight into the wailing guitars, the sassy powerful vocals of lead singer Dee-Dee and the luscious waves of sound. Already, it is apparent that the sound quality is already triumphant over previous releases.

Even though not much seems to have changed stylistically for these ladies, there is a definitive confident sound that emanates in these jam. Most of the songs hover around the traditional three-minute mark, save for “Coming Down,” but that is a different beast entirely. At six and a half minutes, this song is a crawling delight that ebbs and flows with the angular guitars and that slow resonating drum beats that juxtapose with the honeyed vocals. For me, it is one of the more intriguing numbers that this band has crafted. It is not as though the youthful spirit has been lost, but instead, it is channeled into emotion rather than just fast drumbeats and surface level lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, you can still find this fast and furious pop on Only in Dreams. The next song, in fact, is the epitome of this classic poppy sound with ample jam for you to shake your hair to.

This album is definitely a step in the best direction for Dum Dum Girls. They have taken what was best from their previous releases, perfected them, and then added new elements to spice up their sound and keep old listeners from getting bored. It’s an entertaining album that plays around with what you would expect from these ladies. Have a listen.

New Music From Dum Dum Girls

I’ll go ahead and be honest with you people, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Dum Dum Girls and have always found their side projects more interesting.  I say this so you can truly believe me when I say that this new slow burning jam “Coming Down” has immediately turned my opinion of the band.  Sure it’s simple, but it’s Mazzy Star style build up has me marking the calendar for the September 27th release of their new album Only in Dreams on Sub Pop Records.  Also of note, the band is stopping into town Friday at Mohawk for a live set that’s sure to sell out.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10068.mp3]

Download: Dum Dum Girls – Coming Down [MP3]

Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Initially gaining notoriety during the rise of similar bands such as Vivian Girls, it would be easy to lump Dum Dum Girls into the exact same pile, yet something separates those two groups from being perfectly aligned (despite sharing a DDG sharing a former member of VG).  On I Will Be, which is primarily the work of Dee Dee, there remains a large bit of influences, but underlying all that lies a certain sense of darkness.

You can put on “It Only Takes One Night” and immediately feel the edge that runs throughout the album.  Rather than buzz and pop, the guitars seem to ring from a darker place, not ever quite breaking out of that seemingly haunting place.  The vocals, too, have a bit of a dark influence to them, partly due to a bit of a vocal echo effect.  Surely this is the influence of Dee Dee’s friend Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs), who makes similarly haunting tunes.

Even with that sinister tone hiding beneath, the band also have a touch of a softer side to them, one that definitely has its roots in girl groups of the 60s.  You’ll find that style prevalent in songs such as “Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout” or “Rest of Our Lives.”  The former uses backing vocals to bring back that nostalgic aesthetic, and it does so effectively.  “Rest of Our Lives” is sort of a late 60s prom dance number.  It’s slow moving, and the rest of the girls in the group, or perhaps just Dee Dee’s overdubs, gently float vocals in the background, as one would expect to see.  These songs are easily enjoyable, though not necessarily pushing any new ground.

However much this band seems to stay in one of two places, they are capable of creating some spectacular songs.  “Jail La La” is every bit as catchy as anything that has come out this year.  This is one of the few songs in the collection that seems to rise above the influences and standout for its individual promise, making it a currently relevant pop track.  Whether its the precision drumming pushing the pace of the song or the vocal quality here, the song wins you over instantly, never letting go. Another winning track is “Blank Girl,” featuring Brandon from Crocodiles trading vocal parts.  The juxtaposed vocal tradeoffs are quite successful, and the psychedelic guitar cuts don’t inhibit this song either.

Adding a touch of kitsch, Dum Dum Girls cover Sonny & Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go” to close out the album.  Personally, this song is a lot more affecting than the original number, as you can’t resist Dee Dee’s warm vocals here.  Everything else seems to stop during this song, and the instruments themselves are just a tool for the female voice. At least you can accept the inclusion of the song for thematic purposes on this record, and for the fact that its a pretty enchanting cover.

As it ends, I Will Be is neither astonishing, nor is it a letdown (not by any means).  You just have to weigh your personal feelings about whether or not this style is fitting for your listening habits. There’s not necessarily an over-abundance of originality, but you can’t let that detract from the fact that Dum Dum Girls have recorded some quality moments of music, such as “Jail La La.” You’ll find more enjoyable moments than not on this record, which is something you can’t say too often nowadays.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/04-Jail-La-La-1.mp3]

Download: Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La [MP3]

Blank Dogs – Under and Under

dogsRating: ★★★☆☆

Currently, the music scene is filled with waves upon waves of bands who are forging ahead with music under the lo-fi moniker, creating tunes shrouded in disguise. It’s as divisive a topic as whether or not to like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective; clearly the jury is out, but Blank Dogs is yet another band opting to use a barrage of noisy atmospherics in order to compose the music on Under and Under.  Of course, you’ll find that the man behind the project Mike Sniper is familiar with other leading acts in the scene such as Crystal Stilts or Dum Dum Girls.

Musically, all listeners will have to admit that the skeleton of the album itself is quite interesting, and would normally garner huge popularity in another format.  Take the lead track “No Compass” with the bouncing rhythm and angular guitar cutting through the song.  Even when the tracks come across fueled with electronic elements such as keyboards on tracks like “Blue Lights” you can catch melodies that otherwise one would typically enjoy.

However, the presentation of these skeletons is what leads to a discourse on whether or not this music can be deemed as such.  Has the deconstruction of pop sensibility gone so far that we can accept as a listener lyrics run through some sort of effect machine, creating nothing more than what appears echoes of noise?  It’s actually a deeply haunting effect that pervades the entirety of Under and Under, but it takes a certain breed of listener to endure this for long periods of time.

Taking the album fragment by fragment, you have what looks to be the construction of a very basic pop album; the guitar work that is present is not super difficult, and not far off from what  is currently on the market.  An issue with many listeners will be that the recording and the creation of all these fragments has been marred for the most part by these elements of noise that coat both the music and the vocals.

Still, you can’t deny that there is magic in this album.  Standout track “Tin Birds” would easily be on any best of compilation from the eighties, even with the foggy vocoder effect on the song.  Mike Sniper has created some really intriguing music as Blank Dogs, and a lot of it is worthy of the praise that has been heaped upon him.  But, wouldn’t it be great to see if one could create such sublime music without all the frills of making it a deconstructionist lo-fi album?  Surely it would, and only the man behind the music can lead us there, so for now we’ll have to stick for the marginally great tunes we have.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-tin-birds.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Tin Birds [MP3]

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