Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Dog Day on Noyes Records
I had heard Dog Day has since shrunk to a two piece from the days of Night Group and now the married couple, Seth & Nancy have not only the rhythmic telepathy inherent of a duo but also spend every waking moment together making them possibly at the very top of the duo pyramid. You don't get any closer than this. If anything can be held up as an example of the special magic of a duo then I submit Dog Day.
Night Group is still an amazing achievement. Insanely catchy, sparkling pop, with all the quirky composition of classic indie rock and even tougher twee leanings. I know that's a contradiction, but they seem to straddle that line. I've always been a huge fan of Seth's pitch perfect slightly post-monotone delivery, rising at just the right points to join the off the charts harmonies of Nancy. It's always been nostalgic indie pop that combines straight, experimental changes, playing with the odd time signature and vocals. A lot like Kurt Heasley from the Lilys or Ben Gibbard from....you know that first album. The one with the boat, the blue cover. Something about Airplanes had the fuzzy shoegaze sound and vulnerability....something I think Dog Day makes contemporary. Elevating traditional pop.
On A-Side's "Scratches", you can sense the effortlessness of their songwriting, these two have that insane talent of a group like the Dodos without the folk underpinnings, they take these simple elements, not relying on the allure of a completely new sound, but instead taking the 2 classic sounds of guitar and drums, and somehow making it new. The Swirlies could also take the simplest guitar riff that never sounded stereotypically indie and their sheer enthusiasm turned it into that undeniable indie rock. It really benefits them to strip down as a duo...and they don't sacrifice the size or polish in any way.
They actually put the lyric "A record skipping in my head" to vinyl...as ridiculous as getting away with including a sample right in the middle. They can do anything, and they're letting you know it.
Seth even did the cover art which for some reason reminds me of a Hozac sleeve, a slightly unsettling doodle, and on the reverse the geometric design could be a classic Doo Rag design. I always admired those guys design aesthetic based on the various 7" labels that released their singles, they seemed to have a consistent better homes & gardens/bauhaus style worked out years beforehand. That's all I wanted at a show at CBGB's was to buy one of those amazingly printed singles. I remember around the same time I was buying all the Chris Ware comics I could get my hands on...this Readers Digest ad feel is somehow classic... so simple that it could be old or new at the same time.
I sound like I'm still strangely talking about the music.
The B-Side, "Belle" has a less exuberant pop harmony pedigree. The chords are darker and distorted, the vocals have a bigger reverb. The usual hint of twee is missing, and I miss it. I would never admit to liking twee, it's a problem genre...I think because of very different artists that get lumped together under this banner...but it's also this unabashed pop they don't even try to make work, it just does.
"Give Me Light" is a real honest to goodness rehearsal space demo sounding track...and this is what you get singles for. To hear a band you already know and love, stripped down like this. It's also why the 'lo-fi' aesthetic is still relevant, to illuminate the processes and to recognize there aren't any machines involved in this sound, except the cassette player and microphone.
It's just Seth and Nancy live.
"Give Me Light" even sounds a little bit garage, with the hints of blues in the guitar scale here. A strong riff that should become the chorus...but of course Dog Day uses it as the intro. Then they top this side off with a neverending tape squeal in the final locked groove. The sound of a cassette winding to an end, looping forever around that last band of the 45.
When it's this good, raw and unburdened try to remember how a song can be stripped of a studio.... of every technological advance known to man, and be completely great...even better than any other way.
This track won't give you any more excuses, you don't need another pedal or a different god damn microphone. You can't fool yourself any longer, you either got it or you don't.
If you subscribe to the Single Noyes club, you get this one on green (yes please) with a download card, the sleeve is a double sided foldover with lyrics...100% perfect.