Subpop, 2011

The idiom about nothing new under the sun applies aptly to music. If we were to break down every new album from every new band against the annals of recorded musical history, we’d probably find endless repetition and a reason to dismiss everything “new” we were presented with from that point onward. But part of the listening experience is sweetened by our own mortality; not being able to compare every new song against humanity’s complete musical chronology allows us to find something new out of something borrowed.

So go the Dum Dum Girls, the highly internet-lauded group of ladies in black, lacy outfits. A band raised on Beach Boys and Sinatra, and unafraid to display their affection for fuzzy 60’s pop songs by applying a heavy dose of it into their songs. Unlike their debut album I Will Be, the sophomore offering holds down slicker production, keeping things less noisy, more accessible, and in many ways, sweeter.

“Always Looking” kicks off with surf-rock guitars underneath a driving, two-minute melody. Same goes for “Bedroom Eyes”, with guitars and a catchy tune, this time employing some ethereal chorus chord structures. Bands like Surfer Blood and Woods have been here and done that, but Dum Dum Girls are warmer, perhaps aided by lead singer Kristen Gundred’s sultry full-bodied vocals. She sings with grace and familiarity all with apparent ease, like your favorite local barroom band if they were a million times better.

This technique is done very well throughout the album, but at the expense of variety. At this point, the Dum Dum Girls lack the multi-faceted characteristics of other bands and choose instead to be a garage rock one-trick pony, even though it’s an outstanding one-trick. “Caught In One” and “Coming Down” demonstrate this most adeptly and are the album stand-outs; the former a hopped-up hand-clapper of a rock song with a sublimely harmonized chorus, the latter a pretty little down-tempo vehicle for Gundred’s vocal resonance and leadership to shine through. The passing of her mother, the woman on the cover of their first album, is ruminated upon in the record, also really seems to add a sense of warmth and bittersweetness to the whole project.

In context, the songs here which otherwise might seem a bit redundant and common are actually quite special. And despite the album’s singularities, this is a band that’s clearly comfortable where they are and making the kind of music that they want.