Review Summary: Electronica artist Dntel changes things up Dumb Luck, an album that sees him playing chameleon.
Musically, Jimmy Tamborello, for an Electronica artist, seems to be all over the place. Nothing does better to show this off then Dumb Luck
, the new album from Tamborello’s “solo” project Dntel. While Dntel’s first album, the stellar Life is Full of Possibilities
, was filled with the kind of Electropop that wouldn’t be out of place in either of Tamborello’s other current projects, The Postal Service and Figurine, the collaborator laden Dumb Luck
is different. The album almost has a mix-tape esque feel to it and the staggering amount of guests has much to do with this: everyone from Saddle Creek poster boy Conor Oberst to much hyped Indie band Grizzly Bear make an appearance.
Almost every track on Dumb Luck
is different from the one before it. While album opener (and title track) Dumb Luck
sounds kind of like a fuzzed out version of what would be on Dntel’s first effort, To a Fault
, which features the after mentioned Grizzly Bear’s guest appearance, sounds like nothing Tamborello has ever put his name on before. Cloaked in noise and reverb, To a Fault mixes Grizzly Bear’s freak folk meets My Morning Jacket-esque vocals and guitars with the cutesy electronic drums and mellow keyboards that call The Postal Service’s Give Up
home. This combination works well, so well that it could be stated that To a Fault is one of the album’s best tracks.
Track 4 is clearly the odd man out when it comes to the songs of Dumb Luck
. Roll On
features Indie heartthrob/Postal Service contributor/Rilo Kiley Frontwoman/solo artist Jenny Lewis, in a track that sounds remarkably like a Country or Folk song. With the exception of a few sparse synthesizers and a programmed drum beat, Roll On features only Lewis’ pretty voice and Acoustic guitar. All of this makes for another track that sounds deceivingly like the collaborator’s previous work (in this case, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins) and yet is still an album highlight. This, of course, isn’t really that bad of a thing. After all, each track is given the Jimmy Tamborello make over (i.e. tastes of the kind of production on Life is Full of Possibilities
or Give Up
Rock My Boat
, with its piano driven, trip hop style of production and Mia Doi Todd vocals is possibly the most “Dntel” song on the album. Todd, who contributed vocals to the stellar Anywhere Anyone
off of Life is Full
, has a very unique voice that works perfectly with Tamborello’s abstract production. Breakfast in Bed
is far and away the most disappointing moment of Dumb Luck
. I mean any song that combines Bright Eyes’ brainchild Conor Oberst and one of my favorite Electronic musicians should have to be mega good, right? Apparently not, as Breakfast in Bed showcases some of the worst performances both parties in recent memory (with the exception of Cassadaga). Oberst’s vocals aren’t bad per say, but far from great. His lyrics, which many call the highlight of Bright Eyes, are not quite of Bright Eyes-quality. Tamborello’s production in the verses is led by a synth line that is almost too annoying to listen to. Of course, one can forget about all of this when the chorus kicks in, where Tamborello highlights Oberst’s folky voice with sonically pleasing synth swells.
Overall, for someone who is a big fan of Tamborello’s work, Dntel’s third release is far from disappointing. Sure, Tamborello kind of plays the chameleon by adapting his style for that of the artist’s, but the list of collaborators on Dumb Luck
is great and, with the possible exception of Breakfast in Bed, Dntel works well with each artist. A solid effort by a solid artist, Dumb Luck
is well worth the 4/5 I am about to award it. Check it out.