Monday, March 29, 2010

My Heart Crushing Love for Dogs, Doctors, etc.

I'm listening to Dr. Dog's newest album, Shame, Shame. I was really quite happy with their relationship with Park the Van records, and although I have to admit that I'm not in the band or conducting any of the business of album releases, I'm upset with their new relationship with Anti- Records. It feels like traitorship to me, mostly because Park the Van feels like they are my best friend, and Anti- feels like they are my dad's sleazy friend who's trying to have sex with me. (Not that this is happening in real life, like, at all, but you know.)

One shallow reason that I am upset with Anti is that they fail to provide me with a digital or physical copy of the album. Their stream doesn't even work. So I'm listening to the new album on Grooveshark. Thank god for semi-illegal music websites.

Reading this Under the Radar write-up on Shame, Shame, I also feel like the band was forced into recording in a "real" studio, and pressured to adopt a style that wasn't completely and totally "theirs."

Politics. You know when your life is inconsequential when:
-Dr. Dog signing to a new label is as dramatic as your aggressive hate for all Americans opposed to health care reform. I want true, unforced music! And I want to not lose my left eyeball by this time next year! Remember, it is a tragedy to be young and uninsured.


Despite any kind of drama I mentioned (and really dreamed up out of thin air) above, this album is the epitome of HI-i-want-to-listen-to-you-all-day! It's the "let's pull up a lounge chair!" type of music. And an album where you can simultaneously reflect about life's disappointments and its simple pleasures. Melodies swirl perfectly, and time stops, and all you can do is curl up or sprawl out and take a very deep breath. Just stop what you are doing.

"Unbearable Why" is a particular favorite of mine. After a few listens, I'm still trying to pinpoint why it stands out to me. There is this three chord piano plunking - plunk, plunk, plunk. Very simple stuff, almost an Asian minimalism to it. Then they have these two-part harmonies about clouds that literally sound so airy that you are in the clouds, staring down at earth, through the fluffy fuzz you're standing on. Did you ever play N64's Yoshi's Story? (Yeah, I was the target audience for sissy video games.) It's like you are Yoshi, and you're on the clouds, and there is a friendly dragon that you have to jump onto before you can eat more eggs and make Yoshi fatter. The guitars are massively peaceful, and the electric riffs add just enough edge to this powdery goodness.

The title track borrows My Morning Jacket's Jim James for a few harmonies. (Sidenote: James is who got the word out about Dr. Dog - after he heard Toothbrush, their second album, he took them on tour.) (Sidenote 2: Jim James is everywhere!) Melancholy drips from the bass. I love this line - "I used to wander the streets at midnight/avoiding any signs of life." All of lead singer Scott McMicken's troubles and ashamed confessions culminate into a huddled cry, an emotional catharsis that oozes honesty and avoids self-importance.

I love how McMicken describes "Shadow People" - "This one apartment I was living in, I felt like I was stuck in the insane heart of West Philly. It’s a weird, insular little community, and there’s a lot going on and a lot of crazy, flamboyant characters and a lot of porch life and coffee shops. But for me, it was kind of overwhelming, and I had overextended myself into the lives of a lot of wacky people, because those are the type of people that I gravitate towards the most."

It reminds me of my trip to Los Angeles, where one person was quirkier than the next, and everyone was living out some kind of dream, stylishly and not without risk. It seems like such a romantic notion to me.

Every piece of music that Dr. Dog crafts has the romance for me. Simple enough to leave playing, yet layered and complex enough to reflect upon, I'm going to go ahead and say that my love for these Philadelphians will continue. I'm not going to listen to this album over and over again. But every month or so, when my Dr. Dog craving returns, Shame, Shame will be a welcome addition to my ever unquenchable thirst for music that makes me feel like I'm in the 60s, on the beach.

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