Blank Dogs – Land and Fixed

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mike Sniper has two things going for him: his label Captured Tracks and his project Blank Dogs.  Running a label that’s releasing a lot of the best music around allows Mike to keep in touch with the heartbeat of the indie community, which really benefits his own work, as you’ll see on the newest record, Land and Fixed.  This is easily the most accessible, and enjoyable, release from Blank Dogs, while still maintaining that covert aesthetic he’s always utilized.

“Goes By” starts things off, and immediately the beats are dark and moving, just as that angular guitar line starts to dance about in the background of the track.  Sniper’s vocals are still coated, though they’re easily the clearest vocals he’s used to date–there also appears to be some backing tracks used to give more depth to his voice this time around.  As the guitar walks in and out of the verse and chorus it creates a nice powerful hook, sure to shake the dance floor.  “Collides” won’t do too much different than the opening track, though the song does a bit more as far as building tension up before jettisoning off into blissful dark-wave.  If you’re a fan of the band, or a casual listener, the clarity of the vocals this time around still has to grab your attention.

“Northern Islands” is the track that exemplifies everything about Land and Fixed.  It’s got this glitch beat erratically going on in the background, and Mike’s coated vocals haunt the dark edges of the song.  But, there’s this dark jangling guitar that recalls everything innocent about pop music, which goes a long way to establish the aesthetic of this record–beautiful in the club and in your bedroom. It’s this stylistic choice that makes Blank Dogs so interesting to listen to in the current market.  They’re neither chillwave or lo-fi, but more of a progressive element of both, moved forward by a focus on classic pop hooks.  If you take a song like “All Around,” it recalls bits of old school post-punk and new wave, yet nothing sounds entirely too trapped in complete nostalgia. And a track like “Treelines” shows how easily magic can slowly unfold before you unexpectedly when listening to this record.  Every bit and piece seems carefully selected and placed, creating optimal reward for musician and listener alike.

If you were looking for one thing to knock, which we know everyone wants to find, that angular beach guitar sound does get a little bit redundant at times.  At spots, its brilliantly included in the scope of Land and Fixed, but other times it could be pushed in a different direction, perhaps a little bit more mischief in the guitar line.  Still, that’s hardly reason to dislike an album, now is it?  With the latest release from Blank Dogs you’ll see an artist who is tied into the culture of a great deal of left of the dial music nowadays, and his influence clearly goes beyond his work with Captured Tracks. It seems that as Mike Sniper has allowed time to progress, his music has grown substantially, leaving us to reap the rewards of his hard work.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Blank-Dogs-Northern-Islands.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Northern Islands [MP3]

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