Dr. Dog is back with their latest album, B-Room
, just one year after the release of their last, Be the Void
. The PA-based group is a rock band with dual lead singers, a retro sound, and a knack for beautiful harmonies.
As a fan of the pre-released B-Room
singles, "The Truth," "Broken Heart," and "Love," I was already convinced that this record was going to be yet another successful notch on their extensive catalog. After releasing such diverse and high-quality music for so long (B-Room
is the band's seventh full-length) Dr. Dog would have to screw up pretty badly to disappoint. And screw up they have not.
The songs that Scott McMicken contributed, "Minding the Usher," "Phenomenon," and others, are quirky, ultra-melodic and melancholic. Vocal counterpart Toby Leaman's songs are rootsy, bluesy, Americana anthems - "Too Weak to Ramble," "Rock & Roll," "Nellie." This is what we have come to expect from Dr. Dog, but what's new?
flirts with old-school soul ("The Truth," "Long Way Down") in a way we haven't heard before. The overall sound of the album is, in a way, a step back to the roomy, homegrown productions of We All Belong
, and in another sense, a sonic leap forward. Playing around in the studio, Dr. Dog have found a perfect balance of retro-warmth and electronic noise.
"Twilight" opens with the sound of a string quartet, and then Scott McMicken's voice, shrouded in distortion, rips the serenity apart. For those that love the early lo-fi incarnation of Toothbrush
-era Dr. Dog, this kind of stuff is golden. "Love" is pure melodic joy, too. In my opinion, McMicken is one of the finest pop songwriters of our time, and "Love" is a good example of why this is so - others don't write these kinds of choruses.
Toby Leaman, meanwhile, has an approach to singing and songwriting that is almost awkward in its unabashed, and utterly unhip, curiosity and joy. If you can get over the silliness of some of the lyrics ("I've never done drugs / I just brush my teeth"), you'll like his songs for the testosterone-filled but sensitive jams they are.
It is natural for bands to grow tired and blase after more than a decade of playing. A band like Dr. Dog, which is a touring band of the old variety, forever indie, could easily fall into this trap. But it doesn't. Every Dr. Dog album has something new and fresh to offer. Not only that, but the band never loses sight of what it is that makes it so great: incredible melodies, interesting production, playfulness, and friendliness. Dr. Dog is a generous
band. Did you hear the EP they put out last year, Wild Race
? Listen to the fourth track off that EP, "Exit for Sale," if you haven't. Another band would thank its lucky star if it wrote that chorus. One could base a pop career on just one of its hooks. Scott McMicken just piles them on top of each other, absolutely spoiling the listener. And the magnanimous song appears on an under-the-radar EP. However, this generosity is prevalent throughout B-Room
We should all be so happy we live in a time when Dr. Dog is still alive, well and productive.
is out now on Anti. Get your copy here