By TYLER ROSS
Dr. Dog isn’t perfect. Their name is perplexing, they don’t sway far from the folk-rock genre, and their hometown (Philadelphia) is somewhat dubious. Yet they manage to possess an unrelenting grasp on my attention. I eagerly await new albums and their singles come like an early Christmas gift. Such adoration of a band is strange for me. Residing in that upper echelon of musical tastes means that a new album will be bought based on the single fact that it’s new; it needs no critical praise or recommendation. And so Be The Void came along, Dr. Dog’s newest release, complete with high expectations and no care for whether or not it met them. It may not be the best way to go into an album, but Be The Void delivers.
There is just the right amount to digest in Be The Void. On the surface, catchy hooks and riffs give the album an undeniable attraction. But listen a little deeper and there’s a wealth of small pieces that forge a rewarding and lasting effort. “Lonesome,” the opening track, deliberately meanders along with an understated slide guitar, crunched out blues chords and the shuffle of percussions. It’s not hard to imagine a chain gang lumber by, albeit a happy one. These minor contributions are what stick with you: The crooning harmonies of “Get Away” or the pitter-patter of bongos in “Heavy Light.” Underneath the musical sheen lies a more intimate and personal side. In “That Old Black Hole” the band shows their apprehensive, almost timid ways: “I put the dogs on patrol in my own backyard/I don’t want to fight but I’m constantly ready/And I don’t rock the boat but it’s always unsteady.”
If there’s anything bad to point out about Be The Void it’s the lack of varied material. It’s not that Shame, Shame, the group’s 2010 release, explored more genres. Though Dr. Dog has crept away from their slower and more subdued previous efforts, thematically speaking they still exemplify psychedelic folk rock. There’s just less change and exploration from song to song underneath that broad genre umbrella on Be The Void. But albums like this–-thoughtful and rife with nuances–-can take time to sink in. Just as you feel comfortable when you know it, you find something new. A simple harmony, some hidden drum line, maybe a lyric. And that’s what keeps you coming back.
Be The Void is out February 27th on Anti-Records.